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.

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Women’s Klan in Tulsa

While researching something else this morning, I came across this image, from the Sunday, 15 October 1922 Tulsa Tribune.  As a note, W.A.P. meant White American Protestants according to Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s, by Kathleen M. Blee.  All text after this is quoted from the newspaper article accompanying.

Members of the Tulsa KKK and the WAP at the inaugural meeting, October 1922. -- Tulsa Tribune, 15 October 1922.

Members of the Tulsa KKK and the WAP at the inaugural meeting, October 1922. — Tulsa Tribune, 15 October 1922.

Good Morning Mrs._____; Are You In This Picture?

This is the first photograph ever published of members of the women’s Ku Klux Klan.  It was taken a few days ago at the organization of the Tulsa Chapter of the W. A. P., the Women’s Auxiliary of the Klan.  The robed figures at the left are Klansmen,  The women at the right and in the rear are charter W.A.P. members.   Can you pick out yourself?  What W.A.P. stands for is a secret.

The accompanying picture of the first class of Tulsa women into the W.A.P., the women’s Ku Klux Klan, was brought to The Tribune by a woman who said she was a member.  This is the third class of the kind organized in the United States, it is said, and the first pictures of members of the women’s organization to be published anywhere.

As can be seen in the picture, the W.A.P. has at least the semi-official sanction of the Ku Klux Klan.  Members of the local chapter of the klan are here presenting the American flag to the women, who have just banded together to further the same principles advocated by the invisible empire.  The photograph was taken a few days ago.

The W.A.P., said to be the only women’s organization that has received commendation in the klan national papers at Atlanta, Ga., and Washington, D.C.,was organized at Claremore a few weeks ago.  National headquarters have since been established in Kansas City.

The order claims a membership of 4,000 in Oklahoma.  It is said to have chapters at Claremore, Miami, Tulsa, Vinita, Muskogee, Oklahoma City, Pryor, Wagoner, McAlester, Henryetta, Okmulgee, Haskell, Sapulpa, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Skiatook, Collinsville, Avant, Bigheart, Pawhuska, Pawnee, Stillwater, Perry, Oilton, Drumright, Yale, Cushing, Stroud, Chandler, Guthrie, Edmond, Yukon, El Reno, Kingfisher, Enid, and Ada, in this state,  while others are being organized almost daily.


 

Tulsa Tribune, May 31, a look at the information.

The May 31st edition of the Tulsa Tribune is a major key to the development of the Riot in Tulsa, and therefore it will be helpful to take a look at what we know, and what exists.

The Tulsa Tribune was a daily, evening paper, beginning publication in 1919. It was founded by Richard Lloyd Jones, Sr. and was published by the Jones family until the paper ceased publication in 1992.

The paper was published in two editions, the City edition, which came out in the afternoon, and the State edition, which was published later and was then sent out to the rest of the state, carrying the same content, but the next day’s date.

Up to this point, the only copy available has been a microfilm copy of the vandalized City edition with part of the front page and the editorial page removed.

Front Page with torn out section

Front Page with torn out section

Editorial Page with torn out section.

Editorial Page with torn out section.

The microfilm was produced by the Micro-Photo Service Bureau, Cleveland, Ohio.  The date of filming is unknown, but could have been as early as the middle 1940s.  The filming was later taken up by the Micro Photo Division of Bell & Howell.

If we look at what has been said about this issue of the Tribune, in chronological order, we see the following.

In Mary Parrish’s book interviewing survivors in 1922, Events of the Tulsa Disaster, P. S. Thompson (pp.29-30) reported an article in the Tribune said that:

… threats were being made to lynch a Negro for attempted criminal assault upon a White girl…

Also in Parrish, A. H. (pp. 47-9) stated that

The Daily Tribune, a White newspaper that tries to gain its popularity by referring to the Negro settlement as ‘Little Africa’ came out on the evening of Tuesday, May 31, with an article claiming that a Negro had had some trouble with a White elevator girl in the Drexel building.  It also said the Negro had been arrested and placed in jail and that a mob of Whites were forming in order to lynch the Negro.

Loren Gill, in his 1946 thesis The Tulsa Race Riot, mentions the first page article “Nab Negro for Attacking a Girl in an Elevator,” and cites this as the 1 June 1921 edition.  He quoted the text of the article as being:

A negro delivery boy who gave his name to the police as ‘Diamond Dick’ but who has been identified as Dick Rowland, was arrested on South Greenwood avenue this morning by Officers Carmichael and Pack, charged with attempting to assault the 17 year-old white elevator girl in the Drexel building early yesterday.

He will be tried in municipal court on a state charge.

The girl said she noticed the negro a few minutes before the attempted assault looking up and down the hallway on the third floor of the Drexel building as if to see if there was anyone in sight but thought nothing of it at the time.

A few minutes later he entered the elevator she claimed, and attacked her, scratching her hands and face tearing her clothes. Her screams brought a clerk from Renberg’s store to her assistance and the negro fled. He was captured and identified this morning both by the girl and clerk, police say.

Rowland denied that he tried to harm the girl, but admitted he put his hand on her arm in the elevator when she was alone.

Tenants of the Drexel building said the girl is an orphan who works an elevator operator to pay her way through business college.

Gill’s citing of the date of June 1, means that he could have been looking at the State edition, rather than the City edition.

Scott Ellsworth’s interview with W. D. Williams, dated June 7, 1978, said that there was an article in the newspaper “To Lynch Negro Tonight”.  Ellsworth noted the missing editorial page, and implied that such an article may have been on the editorial page. (Death in a Promised Land, pp. 47-8)

On the face of it, there is almost certainly an article, and possibly an editorial, although neither exists in the microfilmed newspaper.

According to the Final Report of The Race Riot Commission:

“Since Gill’s thesis first appeared, additional copies of this front-page article have surfaced. A copy can be found in the Red Cross papers that are located in the collections of the Tulsa Historical Society. A second copy, apparently from the “State Edition” of the Tulsa Tribune, could once be found in the collections of the Oklahoma Historical Society, but has now evidently disappeared. 90″

Endnote 90 cites the Red Cross Collection, Tulsa Race Riot 1921, Tulsa Historial Society. And says that the OHS copy was uncovered by Bruce Hartnitt, a Tulsa based researcher, sometime before 1996.

I should also mention that according to the Final Report of The Race Riot Commission:  (p. 55) implication has migrated to suggestion:

“This front page article was not, however, the only thing that the Tulsa Tribune seems to have printed about the Drexel Building incident in its May 31, edition. W.D. Williams, who later taught for years at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, had a vivid memory that the Tribune ran a story titled “To Lynch Negro Tonight.” 91 In fact, however,what Williams may be recalling is not another news article, but an editorial from the missing editorial page.”

Endnote 91 cites the Williams Interview.

Citing the Final Report, Ellsworth’s Death in a Promised Land, and Alfred L. Brophy, “Tulsa (Oklahoma) Riot of 1921” in Walter C. Rucker & James N. Upton, eds., Encyclopedia of American Race Riots (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007), the current Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_riot, retrieved 6/18/2014) is explicit:

The Tulsa Tribune, one of two white-owned papers published in Tulsa, broke the story in that afternoon’s edition with the headline: “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator”, describing the alleged incident. According to some witnesses, the same edition of the Tribune included an editorial warning of a potential lynching of Rowland, and entitled “To Lynch Negro Tonight”. The paper was known at the time to have a “sensationalist” style of news writing. All original copies of that issue of the paper have apparently been destroyed, and the relevant page is missing from the microfilm copy, so the exact content of the column (and whether it existed at all) remains in dispute.

In the University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections there exists a photocopy of the front page of the June 1, 1921 State edition, which appears to have come from the Oklahoma Historical Society, shows the article, but not the editorial. I have been in contact with the Oklahoma Historical Society, and their copy has been lost.

Ian Swart, Archivist & Curator of Collections of the Tulsa Historical Society offered a possibility that hadn’t occurred to me.  I contacted Sherri Perkins, Local History and Digital Collections Librarian, of the Tulsa City-County Library to see if there was a copy of anything in the Beryl Ford Collection.  She was able to uncover the newspaper in a very short time.

So, yesterday afternoon, I had in my hands, the actual paper edition of the State edition of the May31/June 1 1921 Tulsa Tribune.  You can see the digital copy of it (all 16 pages) at this link.

State Edition, Banner

State edition, article

State edition, article

You may notice the text of the article does match the article quoted by Gill.

State Edition editorial page

State Edition editorial page

And while they sent out the State edition with the “Nab Negro” article, there is no editorial “To Lynch Negro Tonight.”

As to what was contained in and what happened to the missing portion of the City edition, there are three possibilities to consider: a) that the survivors and witnesses misremembered the article and there never was such a headline (which then raises the question of why the editorial page would be torn out); b) that the damage may have been the result of a storage or handling accident – the June 2nd City edition suffered similar damage, and the two were stored together, or; c) the editorial did exist in the City edition and the editors wrote a completely new editorial specifically for insertion into the State edition.