Annoying tempting similarities

I’m forwarding this from my other blog.

Website of a Historical Polymath

riot162You know you are spending too much time on a topic when you start seeing things.

This young man kindly took his time out from shooting, looting and burning to have his picture taken in front of the ruins of the Dreamland Theater on Greenwood, late morning of 1 June 1921.

The more I look at him, the more I think he looks like this guy:


This would be Fred Barker, youngest son of the Barker Family, one of the founders of the Barker-Karpis gang in the early 1930s.  Fred was 19 and a half in June, 1921.  He and his brothers were members of the Central Park Gang in Tulsa.  He was first imprisoned in 1927 for burglary.  After teaming up with Karpis in 1930, he escalated to bank robbery, kidnapping, and murder.

The annoying part is that Fred was actually in Tulsa during the riot and could well have been involved.

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Just a few notes

Just a few notes

As interest in this blog is slowly growing, I have opted to make a change in formatting, nothing major — the static top page has been changed to a more standard blog format, with the latest entry appearing at the top.

Some may have noticed that the most recent entries have been the official reports from the National Guard and the newspaper interview with T.J. Essley.  This is because I am attempting to just lay the information out as objectively as possible, however, as we move to more of a straight blog, I will be posting other things as well.  Ideally this will still retain the sense of objectivity that has gone before

One of the things that comes up regularly when dealing with the Riot and the aftermath, including the invasion of Greenwood, the looting and burning is that most people have a view, a perspective.  I just finished a talk with some people who are researching the events, and I likened this to the story of the blind men and the elephant.

Essentially this is that there were a group of men blind from birth who had heard that a creature called an elephant had come to town.  They went down to inspect this creature.  One man felt its nose and called it a snake.  One felt an ear and determined the creature was a large soft fan. One experienced the tail and determined it to be a hard whip.  One a the side felt a large rough wall in front of him.  The last felt the tusk and decided it was hard and sharp, like a spear.

Studying history can be very much like this at times.  With the Riot and the events around it, there are a wide array of perspectives, and we are trying to find a sense of the objective truth behind what we are perceiving (at least I am).

Now, I maintain that the essential elements that are inarguable are as follows:


  1. The elevator incident between Sara Page and Dick Rowland. Something happened between these two people which was then reported as an attack.
  2. Rowland was arrested and taken in to the Sherriff’s department.
  3. The inflammatory newspaper account was published.
  4. People gathered at the Court House, whites first – almost certainly to lynch Rowland or to watch the lynching.
  5. Armed men came down from Greenwood to help protect Rowland.
  6. An attempt was made to disarm someone and a shot went off.
  7. A riot broke out in which weapons were taken from local sporting goods stores, and people tried to arm themselves from the national guard armory.
  8. The blacks withdrew to set lines along the tracks and side streets.
  9. Skirmish cars were used.
  10. That night fires started.
  11. The local National Guard started to round up people in Greenwood, disarming those with weapons and moving them into custody.
  12. The next morning, an invasion followed into the Greenwood district, with shooting, looting, and burning.
  13. Airplanes were used somehow.
  14. A machine gun was present.
  15. People in numbers greater than 1 were killed. (The minimum number based on the death certificates is in the 30s. The Red Cross, the funeral home reports, the newspaper reports and the anecdotal evidence increase the numbers.)
  16. The Greenwood population was marched through downtown and incarcerated first at the Ball Park.
  17. The Greenwood district was effectively burnt to the ground.
  18. Many people left afterwards.
  19. Greenwood rebuilt.

Pretty much everything else is opinion, politics, or folklore.

I know there will be a disagreement to this, but certainly everything else is argue.


Tulsa Coal Mines

One of the stories about the riot and aftermath was that the coal mines were used to hide the bodies.  I haven’t looked into it much, but I wasn’t convinced.  I was just sent an article from the Tulsa Gal blog.  She has looked into the history and it looks like that’s an easily busted story since the coal mines are all after 1921.