The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission
“The projects of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission will educate Oklahomans and Americans about the Race Massacre and its impact on the state and nation; remember its victims and survivors; and create an environment conducive to fostering sustainable entrepreneurship and heritage tourism within the Greenwood District, specifically, and North Tulsa generally.” The Commission’s resources page includes extensive materials, including a curriculum.
Tulsa Historical Society & Museum
The THSM is focused on building, preserving, and presenting a broad-based general collection of Tulsa history. Their 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre exhibition includes extensive period documents and photos, audio recordings, court cases, and resources for further research.
“The Greenwood Cultural Center is the keeper of the flame for the Black Wall Street era, the events known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, and the astounding resurgence of the Greenwood District in the months and years following the tragedy.”
John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation
“Beginning with the 2008 groundbreaking for Reconciliation Park, the Center’s vision [has been] to transform the bitterness and mistrust caused by years of racial division, even violence, into a hopeful future of reconciliation and cooperation for Tulsa and the nation.”
“The goal of the Greenwood Art Project is to unite artists, community, and business in a way that brings awareness of Greenwood’s history, including the 1921 Race Massacre, and the once-thriving Black Wall Street.”
Oklahoma Historical Society
On its “Black History Is Oklahoma History” page, the OHS includes an e-exhibit, lesson plans, and teacher resource guides related to Black Wall Street, the massacre, and the centrality of African American history to Oklahoma history.
Oklahoma State Archives
On its Digital Prairie website, the State Archives feature documents and images from various Oklahoma state government agencies, such as the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office, regarding the investigation into the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The collection includes eyewitness testimony, letters, telegrams, police reports, and court cases.
“Tulsa Artist Fellowship, located in the heart of Oklahoma’s Green Country, is an initiative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). With GKFF’s strong belief that the arts are essential to a diverse and engaged city, Tulsa Artist Fellowship was established in 2015 as a program dedicated to addressing the most pressing challenges in artistic communities and serving as a globally recognized model for mobilizing communities with the transformative power of art.”
The Tulsa Massacre and the Call for Reparations
Harvard professors Mihir A. Desai, Suzanne Antoniou, Leanne Fan have assembled a free case study that guides students to consider the specific issue of reparations for the Tulsa Massacre, the idea of reparations generally, and the use of reparations to respond to the effects of slavery and racist governmental policies in the U.S. Additional instructor materials (a teaching note and slides) are available here.
Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921
PDF link to the 2001 report from Scott Ellsworth’s “Tulsa Race Massacre” entry in The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
"Living, Teaching, and Learning with the Ghost of the Tulsa Race Massacre"
by Mirelsie Velásquez
An article from History of Education Society
“The Massacre of Black Wall Street”
by Natalie Chang, illustrated by Clayton Henry & Marcelo Maiolo
A comic from The Atlantic in conjunction with HBO’s 2019 Watchmen series
"Trump Will Stand Atop a Land of Tragedies"
by Rebecca Nagle
An article from The Atlantic in conjunction with Donald Trump's June 2020 Tulsa campaign rally
by Quraysh Ali Lansana with research by Bracken Klar
An article from Oklahoma Today
by John Truden & Kathleen A. Brosnan
In an era defined by a violent, white-supremacist regime known as Jim Crow, some 10,000 African Americans created the nation’s most successful Black community in Tulsa’s Greenwood District. On May 31, 1921, the Tulsa Tribune, a white newspaper, published a false and inflammatory article about an encounter between an African American man and a white woman in an elevator. White Tulsans, already resentful of Black wealth, sought to execute the man without a trial. When African American men intervened, the lynch mob attacked Greenwood. After overwhelming African American defenders, white Tulsans murdered hundreds of Greenwood residents, placed the survivors in an internment camp, and burned down the thirty-five-city-block district.
The massacre fit a pattern of white attacks on Black communities across the United States between 1917 and 1945, while its aftermath reflected Jim Crow’s influence on civil institutions. National Guard troops forced survivors into temporary servitude. The city government passed an ordinance – later declared unconstitutional – to prevent Greenwood’s reconstruction. Insurance companies refused to compensate many Black property owners. Prominent Greenwood residents fought off criminal charges, while white perpetrators avoided legal consequences. Unknown persons physically removed the inflammatory article from the newspaper when the Tribune was later archived.
These sources include survivor accounts, newspaper articles, reports, telegrams, photographs, and historical analyses. – John Truden
Interview of Otis Clark, Voices of Oklahoma, November 23, 2009, at https://m.voicesofoklahoma.com/interview/clark-otis/?page=production
Interview of Wessley Hubert “Wess” Young Sr., Voices of Oklahoma, August 21, 2009, at https://m.voicesofoklahoma.com/interview/young-wess-cathryn/?page=production
Interview of Juanita Delores Burnett Arnold, Eyewitness Accounts, n.d., at https://tulsareparations.z19.web.core.windows.net/JArnold.htm
Interview of Kinney I. Booker, Eyewitness Accounts, n.d., at https://tulsareparations.z19.web.core.windows.net/KBooker.htm
Interview of Binkley Wright, Eyewitness Accounts, n.d., at https://tulsareparations.z19.web.core.windows.net/BWright.htm
Interview with Major Frank Van Voorhis, October 25, 1937, Works Progress Administration, Indian-Pioneer Oral History Project, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries
Charles F. Barrett (Oklahoma National Guard), Field Order No. 4, June 2, 1921, Report, Tulsa Race Riot Disaster Relief, American Red Cross, Tulsa Race Massacre Collection, Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, Tulsa, OK [PDF]
Maurice Willows, “Burnings,” n.d., Report, Tulsa Race Riot Disaster Relief, American Red Cross, Tulsa Race Massacre Collection, Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, Tulsa, OK [PDF]
Tulsa Disaster Relief Statistics, July 30, 1921, Supplement to Report, Tulsa Race Riot Disaster Relief, American Red Cross, Tulsa Race Massacre Collection, Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, Tulsa, OK [PDF]
Walter F. White, “The Eruption of Tulsa,” The Nation, June 29, 1921, 909–910, at http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5119/.
Roscoe Dunjee, “Editorial: A White Man’s Country,” Black Dispatch, June 3, 1921.
“$2,500,000 of Negro Property Destroyed,” Black Dispatch, June 3, 1921 (1, 5).
“Loot, Arson, Murder!” Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921.
“Many Thousands Leave Tulsa,” Black Dispatch, June 17, 1921.
“To Rebuild Greenwood,” Black Dispatch, June 24, 1921.
“Tulsa Negroes Collect Insurance,” Black Dispatch, August 19, 1921.
“Kill Ordinance!” Black Dispatch, September 8, 1921.
“Release Dick Rowland,” Black Dispatch, September 29, 1921.
Rev. M.A.N. Shaw to Governor James B.A. Robertson, June 2, 1921, Folder 16, Box 3, RG 8-D-1-3, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK
George Hinton to James Robertson, Folder 16, Box 3, RG 8-D-1-3, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK
W. A. Wallace to James Robertson (Reply included) Folder 16, Box 3, RG 8-D-1-3, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK
Selected postcards, Marc Carlson, “The Tulsa Race Massacre,” at https://tulsaraceriot.wordpress.com/tag/photographic-postcards/
R. Halliburton Jr., “The Tulsa Race War of 1921,” Journal of Black Studies, 2:3 (March 1972): 333–357.
Chad L. Williams, “The War at Home: African American Veterans and the Long ‘Red Summer,’” Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010): 223–260.
David A. Chang, “The Battle for Whiteness: Making Whites in a White Man’s Country, 1916–1924,” The Color of the Land: Race, Nation, and the Politics of Land Ownership in Oklahoma, 1832–1929 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010): 175–204.
Hollie A. Teague, “Bullets and Ballots: Destruction, Resistance, and Reaction in 1920s Texas and Oklahoma,” Great Plains Quarterly, 39:2 (Spring 2019): 159–177.
Chris M. Messer, Thomas E. Shriver, and Alison E. Adams, “The Destruction of Black Wall Street: Tulsa’s 1921 Riot and the Eradication of Accumulated Wealth,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology 77: 3–4 (May–September 2018): 789–819.
Selected Maps, Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot, February 28, 2001, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, OK
* * *
A Note on the Kit
As part of the university’s research mission, the History Department has emphasized writing and research assignments that integrate primary and secondary sources in History 1483 (American History to 1865) and History 1493 (since 1865). Many students have limited experience with such material or with historical research; therefore, we designed research kits around discrete topics for the students’ second paper. These kits offer a brief introduction to a topic and contain primary sources paired with secondary analyses, both of which are selected with accessibility and common themes in mind. The research kits allow students to delve more deeply into topics that have been introduced in lectures. In the paper, students are required to cite a minimum of seven to ten primary sources and two secondary sources from the kits.
We anticipate that many students will be particularly interested in the Tulsa Race Massacre as we approach the anniversary in 2021, but this kit will remain a part of the survey class well beyond. These were our working premises in crafting this kit:
- A range of African American voices must be prominent.
- The kit should emphasize not only the massacre but also African American wealth in Greenwood and white-supremacist control over civil institutions, particularly in the aftermath, allowing students to understand Jim Crow as multifaceted, systemic, and insidious.
- To help students understand this systemic racism, we avoid racist sources that argued for Dick Rowland’s guilt, justified the massacre, gave credence to lynching, or discussed the elevator incident in depth. Instead, we chose sources that emphasized Black wealth, the events of the massacre, and the massacre’s aftermath. These choices will allow students to analyze the Tulsa Race Massacre as a product of Jim Crow.
Our primary sources consist of African American survivors’ accounts, African American newspaper coverage from The Black Dispatch, communications and an editorial from Black leaders in Greenwood’s peer communities such as Chicago and Boston, selected documents from the American Red Cross and the Oklahoma National Guard, and a series of postcards that provide a photographic record of the massacre.
Our secondary sources include a basic analysis of the massacre; a set of maps offering a spatial analysis of events; an article comparing how white supremacists used violence and civil institutions to displace African Americans in Tulsa and Denton, Texas; an article examining the massacre’s economic effects on Black wealth; a book chapter on African American veterans’ response to racial violence after World War I; and a book chapter that explores the broader rise of white-supremacist activity in postwar eastern Oklahoma.
* * *
For more information, contact:
Kathleen A. Brosnan, PhD
Travis Chair of Modern American History
University of Oklahoma
John Truden, PhD Student
Department of History
University of Oklahoma
on the traditional territory of fourteen Indigenous communities