This riot is covered extensively in Elliot M. Rudwick, Race Riot at East St. Louis, July 2, 1917 (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1966), and mentioned in the Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (New York: Bantam Books, 1968), 217-18, hereafter referred to as Report on Civil Disorders, and in Alex L. Swan, “The Politics of Identification, a Perspective of Police Accountability,” Crime and Delinquincy 80 (April 1974): 123.
This riot is similar to the Tulsa riot in that it is rather difficult to find mention of it. It is very well covered as the subject of Robert V. Haynes, A Night of Violence (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
The Chicago riot is covered in many works. I primarily utilized William M. Tuttle, Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (New York: Atheneum, 1970). Swan, 185, also refers to the episode. The material concerning to boundary dispute is found in the Report on Civil Disturbances, 219.
Report on Civil Disturbances, 816-81; Tuttle, 3-33.
Alfred McClung Lee, Race Riot (New York: Dryden Press, 1943); Swan, 186; Report on Civil Disturbances, 884
Report on Civil Disturbances, 111; Tuttle, 7.; Swan, 185.
Tulsa Tribune, 31 May 1921; quoted in Loren L. Gill, “Tulsa Race Riot” (MA Thesis, University of Tulsa, 1946) 88, n.3. The original article was torn from the bound record volume at the newspaper morgue prior to its being photographed for microfilm. Photographs of an intact first page mockup were displayed in both Skip Nicholson, “Greenwood Blues, the Tulsa Race War of 1921,” (n.p., KOCO-TV 5 Alive, 1983), videotape; and Jilda Unruh, prod., “Tulsa’s Secret: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921,” (Tulsa, KTUL-TV productions, 1985), videotape.
“Blood and Oil,” Survey 46 (11 June 1921): 369; Scott Ellsworth, Death in a Promised Land (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988), 45; Gill, 88; R. Halliburton, “Tulsa Race War of 1921,” Journal of Black Studies 8 (March 1978): 336; Parrish, Mary E. Jones, ed., Events of the Tulsa Disaster (Tulsa: Privately printed, 1927), 7, 89, 47, Walter F. White, “The Eruption of Tulsa,” Nation 118 (29 June 1921): 909; Tulsa World, 1 June 1921.
Tulsa World, 1, 8 June 1921; Gill, 88.
White, 909. In this article he particularly asks why it never occurred to the citizens of Tulsa to ask if a sane man would attempt to commit a rape in an open elevator in the middle of one of the city’s busiest office buildings in the middle of the day.
Among those named as leaders of the black mob are J.B. Stratford, a hotel proprietor; A.J. Smitherman, editor of the black newspaper, the Star; and J.K. Smitherman, a deputy sheriff. Tulsa Tribune, 1, 3 June 1921; Tulsa World, 10 June 1921.
Tulsa Tribune, 3, 6 June 1921.
Ibid.; Tulsa World, 20 July 1921.
White, 910; Halliburton, 337; Ellsworth, 49.
Tulsa Tribune, 3 June 1921; Tulsa World, 20 July 1921.
Charles F. Barrett, Oklahoma After Fifty Years (Oklahoma City: Historical Record Association, 1941) 3:207.
Parrish, 47; Tulsa World, 20 July 1921. There was no doubt that the mob would be capable of removing Rowland from his cell to lynch him. They had proven themselves quite capable in August of 1920 by lynching Roy Belton, a white man who had been accused of the murder of a local cab driver. He was taken and hung by a large mob. Ellsworth, 40-44. It was from this hanging that the story of the police directing traffic at the event comes.
Barrett, 207; Parrish, 48.
MAJ James A. Bell, Report on the activities of the National Guard on the night of May 31st and June lst, 1921, to Lt. Col. L. J. F. Rooney, 2 July 1921. (Governor James B. A. Robertson Paper, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma City); Tulsa World, I0, 14, 15 June 1921.
White, 910; Ed Wheeler, “The Disaster of the 1921 Race Riot.” Impact 4 (June-July 1971): 15.
Police Commissioner James Moore Adkison met a party of 60-70 blacks, armed with clubs, bricks, and guns three blocks north of the courthouse. He asked them to disarm, and when they refused, Adkison led them back to the railroad tracks where he left them. Tulsa World, 19 July 1921. Claud. Thomas “rescued” a young white woman from a large black mob at 1st and Cincinatti. The mob beat him up before he and the girl were released. Tulsa Tribune, June 1921.
The following is account collated from the several different versions of what happened. The most informative accounts are in the Tulsa World, 1 June 1921; Tulsa Tribune, 1 June 1921; and Ellsworth, 52.
John McQueen, a white deputy, approached Johnny Cole, an armed black veteran who was leaning in an open automobile doorway. Indicating the army issue .45 Colt automatic that Cole was holding, McQueen asked,
“Nigger, What are you doing with that pistol?”
“I am going to use it, if I need to.” Cody replied.
“No, you’ll give it to me.” The deputy reached for the weapon.
“Like Hell I will.” was Cody’s response. As they wrestled for the pistol it discharged, striking Andy Brown, a black man, in the chest, and killing him.
Barrett, 810; Ellsworth, 54.
New York Times, 1 June 1921; Tulsa World, 1 June 1921.
Tulsa World, I June 1921; Gill, 31-32.
Walter F. White, “I Investigate Lynchings,” American Mercury 16 no. 61 (January 1929): 83.
Gill, 33. This division became even more clear at dawn when isolated policemen tried to stop the invasion. Tulsa Tribune, 1 June 1921; Tulsa World, 19 July 1921.
Walter F. White, “The Eruption of Tulsa,” Nation 112 (29 June 1921): 909; Tulsa World, 1 June 1921.
Tulsa World, 1 June 1921; Ellsworth, 5, 55; in Parrish’s work this point is discussed in nearly every account that she has collected.
Tulsa World, 1 June 1921; Tulsa Tribune, 1 June 1921; New York Times, 1 June 1921; Ellsworth, 57; Parrish,
Primary among these outrages was the death of Dr. A. C. Jackson, a black doctor, once described by the Mayo brothers as “the most capable negro surgeon in America.” He was shot in the back as he left his home, arms raised in surrender, and was taken into custody. Tulsa World, 1 June 1921; White, 910. Parrish contains several reports including women dragging their children while running to safety as whites were shooting at them, p.28; and blacks being tied to the backs of automobiles and being dragged along as whites shot them, p.29; Tulsa World, 1 June 1921; Another example reported by White was of an elderly couple kneeling at their bed in prayer, the mob bursting in and shooting them in the head, looting the house and then burning it, p.910.
Tulsa Tribune, 1 June 1921; Tulsa World, 19 July 1921.
Captain Edward Wheeler of the Oklahoma National Guard was in charge of the machine gun mounted on Standpipe Hill. When he saw that the gun was being used to fire on refugees instead of any rioters, he ordered that it be stopped. A young white boy called CPT Wheeler a “nigger lover” and shot the captain in the stomach with a shotgun. Tulsa World, 15 July 1921; Gill, 48. It is not known if CPT Edward Wheeler has any relationship to the historian Ed Wheeler.
John Richards, the black principal of the Sequoyah school, reported that he telephoned the police on the morning of the 1st to inform them that the entire neighborhood on north Detroit Ave., Tulsa’s wealthiest black neighborhood, was untouched by looters, and that if they sent over a few men it could be protected easily. Shortly thereafter a large mob of looters arrived who burned down the neighborhood. Ellsworth, 60-1. Tulsa Tribune, 3 June 1921.
The majority of the black populace were interned first at the Convention Center, then McNulty Baseball Park, and then at the Fairgrounds. Tulsa Tribune, 1, 2, 3 June 1921, 1; Tulsa World, 1, 2 June 1921; Barrett, 811-18; Parrish, 7, 113-14; Halliburton, 343; Ross T. Warner Oklahoma Boy, (n.p.: Privately published, 1968), 138.
Tulsa World, 1 June 1921; Barrett, 211-12.
Tulsa Tribune, 1 June 1921; Barrett, 211-12; [Handbill Declaring Martial Law, 1 June 1921] (Special Collections, Historical Documents Collection, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa, Tulsa).
Parrish, 11-12; Ellsworth, 63-66
White, 910; Wheeler, 23; Halliburton, 342; “The Tulsa Riots,” Crisis 28 (July 1921): 114; “Mob Fury and Racial Hatred as a National Danger,” The Literary Digest 64 (18 June 1921): 7.
Clarence B. Douglas, The History of Tulsa, Oklahoma: A City with a Personality (Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1921), 1:620-24.
Parrish, Gill, Wheeler and Ellsworth all made extensive use of interviews with black survivors. One difficulty in interpreting these account is that they are all given by people who were being shot at during the majority of the events that they witnessed. Being shot at tends to cloud one’s perceptions.
Many contemporary commentators, including Barrett and White, accuse the Tribune of being a “Yellow Journal” That it was also blatantly racist can easily be seen in the editorial for 4 June, 1921, which specifically blamed “Bad niggers, and there’s nothing lower than a bad nigger.”
All five editions, in their entirety, can be found in the microfilm files. As the morning progresses, they become increasingly difficult to read due to typographical error, stemming from the publisher’s haste to print the news as it was happening.
Some of these are referenced by Gill, others are contained in Kaye M. Teail, Black History in Oklahoma, a Resource Book (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Public Schools, 1971).
Wheeler, 16, 26.
Phil Berger, and Theresa Myers, producers, Conspiracy of Silencer the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (H0-80101.01/011-C, National Public Radio, 1971) cassette; Nicholson, videotape; Unruh, videotape. Wheeler offers as evidence a great deal of supposition and rumor, and no solid evidence. It is tempting to accept his arguments, but I feel it would be a mistake to see conspiracy without definite evidence.
There exists conjecture and rumors that the spotter planes were armed and if they machine-gunned the refugees. Also that the planes dropped nitroglycerine, dynamite, turpentine, or other volatiles to assist in the incendiarism. If these rumors are true, and there are a few eyewitness reports that they are, this would make Tulsa the first U.S. city to be bombed from the air, and the only inland one to so be. There are similar reports that the blacks were stockpiling ammunition, and the explosions that occurred when many of the houses were burned were those stockpiles exploding. I strongly suspect that they were gas lines rather than ammunition stockpiles, and I seriously doubt that the planes were armed, however, my evidence is as unsteady as that of those who claim that the planes were armed, or agree with the other conjectures. To discuss fully the theories about the number of dead, and their disposition would require far too much space for this paper.
Report on Civil Disturbances, v-xi; Jan M. Carlson, “Elements of Conflict,” Student Development Papers 1 (Fort Collins, Colo.: Colorado State University, 1969-70)
Report on Civil Disturbances, 110. ; Ibid.
Louis R. Harlan, Booker T. Washington, the Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).
Hugh Hawkins, Booker T. Washington and his Critics (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath and Co., 1962); Logan, Rayford, ed., W.E.B. DuBois, a Profile (New York: Hill and Wang, 1971), 183-209.
Robert A. Hill, ed., The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Society Papers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 367-69.
This was particularly true for the black veterans returning from the First World War. Originally sent overseas to fill the same positions that they had held at home, many blacks found themselves seconded to units of the French army where they were treated as the French treated the indigenous inhabitants of their colonies. Blacks were still second class citizens, but the French treated them as humans. Ellsworth, 23-4.
Ellsworth, xv-xvi.; Gill, 16.
James Mobray Mitchell, “Politics in a Boom Town: Tulsa from 1906-1930,” (M.A. Thesis, University of Tulsa, 1950), 103-6; Gill, 8; Ellsworth, 16.
Ellsworth, 15; Gill, 18-15.
Gill, 15; Swan, 120; Carlson, 9.
Mitchell, 106; Carlson, 9. There had never been a Republican administration in Tulsa before 1920.
New York Times, 1 June 1921.
Carlson, 4-5; Report on Civil Disturbances, 123.
New York Times, I June 1921; Report on Civil Disturbances, 123.
Carlson, 10-13; Report on Civil Disturbances, 123.
Charles C. Alexander, Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965), 44. It must be noted that Ellsworth uses this same source to lead his reader, without saying so specifically, into believing that the Klan was in Oklahoma since 1915 when he mentions that “It has been estimated that between 1915 and 1940 there were some 6,000 members of the Klan in Tulsa. Charles C Alexander,…” Ellsworth, 122, n.10. This is true, 1921-1940 is between 1915 and 1940.
Kenneth T. Jackson, The Ku Klux Klan in the City. 1915-1930 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), 240.
Ibid,; Alexander, 45.
Report on Civil Disturbances, 204.
David T. Mason, “Individual Participation in Collective Racial Violence: A Rational Choice Synthesis,” American Political Science Review 78(4) (December 1984): 1040-56.