Muskogee Phoenix, 2 June 1921

BOY STARTED FIRE TO AVENGE MOTHER SHOT BY NEGROES

GUARDSMEN TELLS SENSATIONALLY GRAPHIC STORY OF ARSON MOBS AND AWFUL TERROR

WOMAN SAW CHURCH IN GREAT EXPLOSION

SNIPING PARTIES ATTACKED WHITES FOLLOWING TROOPS AND SHOOTING BECAME GENERAL IN ‘LITTLE AFRICA’

By Phoenix Staff Correspondent

TULSA, June 1 – Within a few blocks of the business heart of Tulsa, to the northeast just a little ways across the Frisco railroad tracks, a devastated battlefield smoulders and smokes tonight.  Here a small flame still flickers lighting the desolation, there a blackened chimney stands gaunt against the sky. Strewn about in the streets, untouched by the flames, lay shattered bits of furniture.

The desolation is all that remains tonight, save the deserted streets and the military patrols, to remind a visitor in Tulsa of last night’s debauchery of fire and murder.

3,000 Homes Razed

The ruins of today, yesterday were Tulsa’s negro district, ‘Little Africa.’  Three thousand homes are in ashes, many of them splendid residences.  Blocks of the negro business district are smoking piles of wreckage.

Out in that field of horror still remain the bodies of many of Tulsa’s unknown dead, the military authorities believe. Complete search of the ruins have been impossible for they have not yet cooled.

It is for this reason that the death list may never be accurately known.  Tonight it ranges from estimates of 500 given on the streets and little credited, to police estimates of 125.  Among them are blacks and whites, men, women and children, babies murdered in their mothers’ arms, women shot down as they sat in their homes, men killed as they sought to kill.

Burned After Daylight

“Little Africa” was burned this morning in th broad light of day by an infuriate mob of white men, many of them only boys armed, some say, by the police, whose way was unavoidably blazed for them by the local companies of the national guard.

Many stories were being told tonight of deeds of gallantry, of wilful slaughter, [stories … and pathetic].

The Temper of the Mob

The national guard armory, first stormed by a mob in quest of ammunition, tonight in a military camp, this morning was an emergency hospital for the negro wounded.  Three scores were treated and their wounds dressed by white nurses.  There a dozen died.

There this morning lay a negro woman of 92 years, shot three times by white rioters.  There an old man, deaf, dumb, and paralytic died of his wounds. It was the armory that a rioter, a rifle upon his shoulder, came this morning with a market basket in his hand. In the basket, wrapped in an old lace curtain, lay the body of a negro baby, not more than a foot in length.

“I don’t know who its people are.” The rioter told Major Paul R. Brown in charge. “I just found it lying out there in Africa and brought it here.”

“Such”, Major Brown said, “is the temper of the mob, a man, his hands red with murder, rendering a final deed of mercy.”

As the correspondent stood on King’s Hill this evening looking out upon the ruins of Little Africa, Mrs. A. Germine, a white woman, approached.

Saw Church Explode

“I saw them set fire to these homes.” She said.  “And they were pretty houses here along the street.  As the men searched the houses for arms and warned the people left the others, the riff-raff, came along and set them afire.

“I saw that church over there—the negro Methodist church ‘explode.’ It was a big explosion.  It was there they had their ammunition and rifles stored.”

In the ashes tonight lay the charred and burned stocks and barrels of many score of rifles giving the truth of her story.

The early rioting of the night from the time a negro fired point blank into a crowd of unarmed whites, and negroes in motor cars began to run down all the white people on the streets until daylight was bad enough, but the annihilation of “Little Africa” was almost unparalleled.

Let First Sergeant T. J. Esley of Company B tell the story.  Esley was attending a non-commissioned officer’s school at the armory when a crowd of several hundred white men attempted to batter down the doors, clamoring for rifles and ammunition, shouting that a mob of negroes was killing white men and women in front of the courthouse.

It was upon word that came to them in such a dramatic manner that the officers of the Tulsa guard, acting on their own responsibility, began to summon their men.  The mobilization in itself if an interesting story, but it must be passed over.

Shortly before midnight, Sergeant Esley and fifteen or more of the guardsmen who had assembled hurried to police headquarters./

“For blocks around the streets were dammed with people,” the sergeant said. “Everyone was in hysteria.  Motor cars loaded with a dozen or more men, their rifles sticking up in the air, dashed back and forth in and out of the crowds.

“For an hour we attempted to patrol police headquarters. Then a call came that the negroes, who had retreated across the tracks into their own part of town, were firing on the Frisco station.  Captain McCune took a detail of about twelve, of whom I was one, and we went to the station.  We stopped about a block away and marched to the depot.

Just Good Targets

“The negroes were firing all right. The captain sent me with three men around in front to make a report.  The Oklahoma City train was standing there, between the station and the negroes.  The blacks were pouring a regular volley through the train windows.

“Passengers in the train were lying flat on the floor on their faces.  The lights were on in the station, while on the other side it was dark and there were lots of signboards.  We were nothing but good targets, so we went back and I told the captain.  He then decided that we could do nothing until daylight.”

It was after the break of the day that the blackest of the great tragedy was enacted, for it was then that the white mob, their way blazed by the national guardsmen, “mopped” the negro section.

The best of the negro residence section-nestled in a valley at the foot of King’s hill.  Here yesterday stood splendid homes that tonight are smouldering ashes.  It was to this crest of King’s hill that Sergeatn Esley and his company were detailed. Down below, in their homes and in the shelter of their outhouses, the negroes lay entrenched.  From their windows rifles flashed and shots fell as hail upon the white section of the hill above.

Machine Gun In Action

At the break of day the battle opened from the hill, the guardsmen lying on their faces poured volley after volley into thehomes below.  A machine gun was brought into action “but it [?ald] “Now and then you could see and then the shots from negrow town grew fewer and fewer finally giving way altogether. I […] the signal for the […] advance.  Home after home […] sometimes […] found […] back behind […]

Vets Follow Troops

[…] They […] further out- […] came the […] or more […] looted the homes the guardsmen had searched carrying off every article of intrinsic value.

The advance into “Little Africa” had [little more than] begun than the flames [followed in] its wake.  There is no  […] fire to that first […] Esley told. It was a [?] year old boy.”

“The captain went back to remonstrate with him to ask him why.  And the boy told him. His name is Dreary or something like that.” The sergeant said.

“His home stands on the hill overlooking ‘Little Africa.’ His mother was sitting upon the front porch of her home last night, her husband at her side, when a negro slipped up behind her and shot her through the back. She died in her husband’s arms.  It was then that the boy joined the mob.  He saw red, he defied the captain and the whole state miltia.”

The spark had been kindled.  A hundred militiamen might be able to battle an army of negroes at their front but they could not rout two thousand heavily armed white men, their red blood lust aroused at their backs.

As the troops pressed forward every home was fired.  But it was not long before they again met armed resistance.

Let the story again be told as it came tonight from Sergeant Esley’s lips:

“You see,” he said. “We were getting out of the range of our first fire, we had passed the zone we had silenced. They began sniping at us from every house it seemed.

Fired at Negro’s Feet

“After we had gone aways I noticed Bame of the service company and another man trapped a little way off.  They signaled to me and I went with a civilian who had been helping me in searching the houses to help them. They were under a cross fire.  I could see that.

“I could see where the shots were coming from, but I couldn’t see the niggers.  Then I looked under a shack and saw the big feet of one nigger who was doing the shooting.  I shot at those with my .45 and I could tell I hit them by the way he first picked up one then the other.  He started to run and Bame got him.  We ran around the corner of the house and a big nigger, one of these who were in the twenty-fourth infantry, good soldiers, stepped in front of us and shot my companion in the stomach.

When he stepped out Bame could see him and he shot him twice, once in the shoulder, and once in the breast.  You know that nigger just kept on firing.

“I shout and hit him in the stomach and thigh, tearing half of it away and he started to run, shooting backward under his arm as he did it.

“Pretty son he came back from around a nearby house, his hands above his head.  I could see he was staggering.  He came up to us and said, “Well you boys give us more than we got overseas.  I’m from the twenty-fourth.  I just wanted to shake hands with you and tell you you’re there.”

And then, Esley said, “he dropped forty dollars, two tens and a twenty at my feet.  I picked it up and gave it to him. “You better take it, you might need it.”

“’No boys,’” he told me, “I’m afraid I’ll never need this money.” We carried him back and he died just about five minutes after my companion who had been shot in the stomach.

A little further on the sergeant said four negroes were sniping from one house.  They guardsmen fired at the puffs and then rushing the building broke in the door.

While the troopers were inside arresting the negroes, the white mob opened fire on the house, rending its walls with a terrific volley.  Esley jumped through a window pane, sash and all, and escaped with a “scratch” made by a bullet that seared the back of his neck.