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Tulsa Race Riot

Page history last edited by neoliz18@... 11 years, 5 months ago

 

 


Introduction

 

On May 31, 1921 an exchange took place between Dick Rowland, an African American shoe shine boy, and Sarah Page, a white elevator operator in the Drexel Building. According to Mary Parrish, Rowland accidently stepped on Sara’s foot. The evening paper headlines foretold a lynching for this mistake. But Sarah Page did not appear to testify at Dick Rowland’s trial and he was to be set free. Nevertheless 500 white men gathered at the jail demanding the prisoner be brought out. A group of African American men went there to help protect him (Parrish 7-8). This encounter set off a violent chain of events which scarred Tulsa forever. Previous race riots had occurred in 1919 in Washington DC and Chicago, but no one expected Tulsa to erupt this way (Parrish 9). In succeeding decades the Tulsa Race Riot was forgotten or concealed, so that most citizens were unaware of its occurrence. The most unique and tragic event in Tulsa’s history has been largely forgotten.  

 

 

Why is it important?

The effects of racial discrimination, however subtle, continue to hamper Greenwood. The designs of white Tulsans upon the area defrauded black citizens in 1921, and made rebuilding very difficult. The Civil Rights movement advanced desegregation in the 1960’s, but ended the economic wellbeing of Greenwood. It caused business failures and urban decay. Empty and rundown, the area was dissected by a highway in the name of urban renewal. The destruction of Black Wall Street, begun with the 1921 race riot, continued for nearly 60 years. Not until 1980 were efforts begun to rejuvenate Greenwood. Recognition of the Tulsa Race Riot as a pivotal race-relations event is a vital of American Studies, for it illustrates the history of black-white interaction over the 20th century. Freed slaves came to Oklahoma and prospered; jealous whites found a reason to obliterate their successes. Outsiders were discouraged from assisting the victims, who eventually rebuilt their community. The tragic loss of life and property destruction was largely forgotten for several decades, both locally and nationally.

The Civil War and civil rights movement achieved some equality for minorities, but other social pressures have countered their progress. Domestic and farm workers were excluded from the Wagner Act and Social Security, so whites got most of the benefits. The 1934 Federal Housing Act mainly assisted white people in home ownership, because minority areas were downgraded in loan appraisals. Trade unions benefitted white workers, primarily. FHA mortgages were not granted in inner city areas. Urban renewal and highway projects destroyed black central city housing far more than that of whites. 90% of the low income housing removed was never replaced. Highway construction caused population loss and less political representation and power for inner cities. Urban renewal added business high-rises, museums and symphony halls to downtown, not affordable housing for poor minorities (Lipsitz 376).

A Federal Reserve Bank study found minorities 60% more likely to be refused home loans. Credit flaws were judged more harshly, creative financing was rarely offered. Even federal job sites were built more often in the suburbs than in downtown districts. Tax legislation protected investment income better than wage earnings during the 1980’s. Minimum wages and aid to dependent families did not keep pace with poor families’ needs. California’s Proposition 13 gave tax relief to property owners, but made it harder for older people to leave large homes. Thus growing families had a smaller supply of housing available (Lipsitz 379). Subsidies for redevelopment freed builders and investors from paying local and county school taxes, and depleted social programs to assist the poor. National polling indicates that voters believe minorities have ample changes for advancement, but do not choose to pursue them. This gap between minorities’ real experiences and white perceptions is very telling. Political and social policies of the mid 20th century have given the advantage to whites over minorities in many areas of life. This “value of whiteness” can only be perceived by examining the type of trends studied in American Studies, if they are highlighted (Lipsitz 372-4).

An awareness of the Tulsa Race Riot is essential for American Studies to make this inequity obvious. It is a microcosm of what has occurred over the last 100 years between the races. White people can only help solve the problem of continuing racism if they realize how they have contributed to the problem by creating advantages for being white.

In 1982 Susie Guillory Phipps tried to change her race from black to white. She was 1/32 black. Her attorney noted that many “white” people have 1/20 black ancestry (Omi 13). Racial categories are sharply defined in the U.S.; this is not true in Latin America (Omi 15). Race is a fluid concept, but Americans view it as fixed and unchangeable. “Race is an unstable and decentered complex of social meaning constantly being transformed by political struggle” (Omi 19-20).

An examination of the Tulsa Race Riot in American Studies can contribute to a realization of how perception has affected reality and assist in making American society more equitable for all.

  

Background information

 

Arrival of African Americans in Oklahoma

 

When the Five Civilized Tribes were forcibly removed from the southeastern states to Indian Territory during the 1830-40’s, they brought their slaves with them, and some freedmen as well. So many black Oklahomans were not here by choice. Intermarriage was prevalent between Native Americans and African Americans. Treaties signed after the Civil War freed the slaves and made freedmen tribal members. Most former slaves were allotted 40-100 acres of land.  Other African Americans came to Oklahoma to escape Southern racism, bought land from Indians and established all black towns (Johnson 2,4). Edwin P. McCabe recruited black settlers to establish Langston, hoping to make Oklahoma Territory an all black state. This scared not only the white folks but also the Indians (Johnson 5). A 1907 article noted that blacks were allowed to homestead land, and former Indian slave and Native American land owners were protected by law (Johnson 7).  


 

 

History of Greenwood

 

Tulsa was known as having a prosperous black community in the early 1900’s, and drew people from like Mary Elizabeth Jones Parrish, the author of Events of the Tulsa Disaster, who moved here from New York in 1918. The African Americans of Tulsa were surrounded by prejudice and had to invest in their own area (Johnson 10).

Dr John Sibley Butler stated that Durham NC and Tulsa OK were successful examples of African Americans using the “economic detour” which describes the actions of a group of people when society prevents them from accessing economic markets (Johnson 18). Durham NC developed around the tobacco industry when Washington Duke established a cigarette factory after the Civil War. A philanthropist opposed to slavery, he helped his black employees and Durham flourished as a segregated African American community, which had inter-racial support.  Tulsa’s Greenwood shared the “black Wall Street” title with Durham, but did not enjoy the same interracial cooperation. After World War I, whites and African-Americans were competing in business and many minority lawyers and doctors and other professionals faced discrimination (Johnson 19).

The Tulsa race riot was not unique. The NAACP was founded after a 1908 riot in Springfield, Il sparked by lynchings. The Ku Klux Klan was very active in Oklahoma City and Tulsa but its violence was worst in Tulsa between 1921-24 (Johnson 21). Greenwood started in 1905 and eventually boasted some beautiful homes (Johnson 11). By 1921, 11,000 black people called Tulsa home. Deep Greenwood the first 2 blocks north of Archer Street was the economic center of  black Tulsa with 23 churches, a hospital, library, 2 theaters, 2 schools, 2 newspapers and 3 fraternal lodges. Due to segregation, a separate economy was their best choice for survival.  They were not allowed to try on clothing in a retail store, but had to buy a garment by guessing at the size. Nor could they return purchases.  So black-owned clothing stores shared space with restaurants and night clubs. Thursday was maids day off, so the community bustled on that evening each week, when black maids returned home for visiting  and shopping. Most African-American  businesses only employed a few people, so they relied upon wages paid by white employers. When the area was destroyed, there were no jobs to bolster economic recovery. But, in its heyday, Greenwood was as fine as Memphis or Chicago, and home to noted jazz musicians (Johnson 25-6).

 

 

                                                              

   

        


  

Remembering the Survivors

  

       

 

    

Adjacent to the OSU Tulsa campus is the Greenwood Cultural Center. One of its guides, Michelle Brown indicated that most residents are not familiar with why the Cultural Center was built, and are unaware of the events of 1921. One of the walls of the building is laden with pictures of the riot’s last survivors. Most of these people were only children when it occurred. As they pass away, their memories and accounts of the riot are being lost. If their stories are not heard and recorded, that history is gone forever. Unlike the famed survivors of the Titanic disaster, the Race Riot survivors are largely invisible.

 

 

                   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before They Die 

“A documentary chronicling the Tulsa Race Riot, and benefiting its survivors” 

Trailer

http://www.beforetheydiemovie.com/

   

 


 

General Timeline of the Riot

 

  •   Riot occurred on May 31, 1921.
  •   The event was started by incident between white 17 year old Sarah Page and 19 year African-American Dick Rowland in Drexel Building in Downtown Tulsa.
  •   Rowland a bootblack had permission to use restroom in the building. The restroom was located many floors up so he had to take the elevator which was operated by Page.
  •   A clerk at nearby clothing store saw Rowland run out of the elevator and thought Page had screamed. At the time the clerk jumped to the conclusion of an attempted rape.
  •   The clerk reported the event to the police.
  •   The police took Rowland into custody on next morning- May 31, 1921
  •   What actually happened in the elevator has never been fully explained; though most believe that Rowland simply stepped on Page’s foot, tried to keep her from falling and she screamed. 
  •   Word spread of the news and eventually by 10:30 pm crowds of both African-Americans and whites gather at the court house where Rowland was being held.
  •   The African-Americans crowd was there to protect Rowland from being lynched by the whites.
  •   Apparently, a white man tried to disarm a African-American and a shot ring out. Gunfire was exchanged and nearly dozen are reported to have fallen during the fight.
  •   African-Americans retreated back to Greenwood but the damaged was done. Whites traveled into Greenwood.
  •   African-Americans were around up, disarmed and put into holding areas like the fair grounds and Convention Hall and later to get out a white person had to vouch for them.
  •   Greenwood was burned, looted, and filled with armed white civilians with purpose of bringing down the community. When the Tulsa National Guard was bring in they joined the whites instead of trying to stop the riot.
  •   National Guard from Oklahoma City had to be brought in to stop the riot. They actually did their job. African-Americans were grateful towards them. After declaring martial law around noon the riot had finally died down.
  •   1,115 residences were destroyed, 314 houses were looted, claims filed against the city were valued at $1.8 million, and lawsuits up to $4 million
  •   Death estimates are from 27 to 250

 

Re-examine the Riot

 

Recently, Hannibal Johnson gave a speech regarding the race riot in March of 2010 . He explained the reason why these events are forgotten; embarrassment and shame that they happened. White Tulsans in the 1920’s tried to move past the whole event, did not deal with its ramifications, and gave little aid to restore the burned out Greenwood community. Johnson acknowledged that only a small percentage of Tulsans were involved in the violence, and many white citizens protected or hid their black friends and domestic helpers. But he also pointed out that the in the photographs of the tragedy, many white citizens were only by-standing observers , as if it was prime time TV (Ellsworth 59). Even the Tulsa National Guard unit and some police, charged with controlling the mobs, joined in the destruction of Greenwood (Ellsworth 54).

 

 

                                                    

   "...my wife and I were separated. They took her and baby to the park, she being sick. I was in a fit of eagerness to find her so I phoned the man by whom I was employed and he came and got me released, took me in a truck and went in search of my wife. At the Baseball Park I found that my daughter had fallen into epilepitc fit and was sent to a hospital" ( Parrish 38).

 

Western Union Telegram

                                                                                                                                                             Tulsa, Okla., June 1 1921 

 

                                                                                           Governor J.BA Robertson,

                                                                                           Okahoma City, Oklahoma,

 

Race riot developed here. Several killed. Unable handle situation. Request that National Guard forces be sent by special train. Situation Serious.

 

                                                                                                                                                                      Jno. Gustafson, Chief of Police

                                                                                                                                                                              Wm. McCullough, Sheriff

                                                                                                                                                                      V. W. Biddison, District Judge

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         (Halliburton 340) 

"Most people, like myself, stayed in their homes; expecting momentarily to be given protection by the Home Guards or Start Troops , but instead of protection by the Home Guards they (the Home Guards) joined the hoodlums in shooting  in good citizens' homes. This was my experience, so after no protection from them, I took my family and a few friends in my car and drove four miles into the country where we were gathered up by State Troops who were perfect gentlemen and treated us like citizens of real America" (Parrish 35-36).

 

 

 

The arrival of another National Guard Unit from Oklahoma City gave protection and aid to the African Americans, who hoped they would stay longer (Ellsworth 91). Mary Parrish stated “everyone with whom I have met was loud in their praise of the State troops who so gallantly came to the rescue of stricken Tulsa” (Jones 20). The Tulsa guard unit was described much differently “The Home Guards had joined in with the hoodlums in the shooting in good citizen’s homes” (Ellsworth 76). Sadly racial tension in Tulsa meant that her black citizens could not depend on their own officials for protection.

Due to the embarrassment caused by the riot, many people felt it best to ignore or forget the incident, despite how badly the victims needed help. The events following the riot are almost as despicable as the violence. Some white Tulsans event tried to take advantage of the situation by trying to buy Greenwood lots without paying the black owners a fair price. Walter White observed that an ordinance was passed preventing African Americans from rebuilding “ ‘for the purpose of securing possession of the land at a low figure’ and that ‘white businessmen had been trying to obtain this land for years’” (Ellsworth 85). It appears in retrospect that the whites were trying to eradicate the riot and the existence of Greenwood completely. 

 

   
 

 

 

 

 

 

 "I took my little girl by the hand and fled out the west door on Greenwood. I did not take time to gat a hat for myself or baby, but started

out north in Greenwood, running amidst showers of bullets from the machine gun located in the granay and from the men who were quickly surrounding our district" (Parrish 10).

 

 

 

  

Displaced Greenwood residents lived in tents they received from the Red Cross; some until the harsh winter of 1921 (Ellsworth 82). City officials even turned down out-of-state donations of aid for the victims;   like $1000 from the Chicago Tribune.  The explanation given was “in theatric fashion that the citizens of Tulsa ‘were to blame for the riot and that they themselves would bear the costs of restoration” (Ellsworth 84). This is further evidence of the shame white Tulsans felt. But the city did not bear reconstruction costs.

 

 

 

"The Red Cross truck arrived for us about 9 o'clock and we started for Tulsa immediately, reaching there at an early hour. We did not enter through our section of the town, but they brought us in through the White section, all sitting on flat down on the truck looking like immigrants, only that we had no bundles. Dear reader, can you imagine the humiliation of coming in like that, with many doors thrown opwn watching you pass, some with pity and other with a smile?" (Parrish 13).

 

 

 

 

       The human will to keep on living was found in the hearts of the riot survivors for it was them who rebuilt Greenwood with little outside assistance. One example of their determination was the Mount Zion congregation which first paid off the mortgage from their brand new sanctuary, destroyed by the riot, and then erected a new house of worship (Ellsworth 57).

 

 

       

 

"The good people of color here building magnificent church structures. One, Mt. Zion Baptist; had merged into a completion at a cost of $85,000- hard-earned and frugally kept" (Parrish 59). 

 

   

Yellow Journalism

 

     Hannibal Johnson and Michelle Brown both recounted the claims of Dick Rowland’s mother, who told police that her son and Sarah Page had a friendship, or love affair. This was substantiated by Sarah Page’s refusal to press charges against Dick Rowland after the incident (Ellsworth 97). Quite possibly, the race riot was sparked by a lover’s quarrel, which someone witnessed and was recounted by the Tulsa Tribune. The May 31, 1921 evening edition bore the caption “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator.” The newspaper’s reporting took an irresponsible and racist approach, choosing to describe the story as they saw fit. The article caused a group of whites to gather at the courthouse, intent upon lynching Rowland. Another article entitled “To Lynch Negro Tonight” brought another group of men, African Americans armed to protect Rowland (Ellsworth 48). It could be argued that the blame for inciting the riot lies more with the Tulsa Tribune for its spurious coverage and inaccurate reporting than upon Page and Rowland themselves.

 The cover-up of the riot was continued when someone tore and removed the front page of the May 31, 1921 Tulsa Tribune before it was microfilmed at the Tulsa Central Library some years later. It is anyone’s guess what the missing front page reported that night (Ellsworth 47). Though most of the content has been lost, found in a thesis paper from 1946 by Loren Gill reports what the Tulsa Tribune wrote in the article, “carried the following inflammatory news item prominently displayed on the front page”:

 

 

 

Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator

 

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

 

He will be tired in municipal court this afternoon on a state charge. The girl said she noticed the negro a few minutes before the attempt 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 and tearing her clothes. Her screams brought a clerk from Renberg’s store to her assistance and the negro fled. He was captured and indentified this morning both by the girl and the clerk, police say.

 

Tenants of the Drexel building said the girl is an orphan who works as a elevator operator to pay her way through business college (Ellsworth 48)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     The bias of the Tulsa Tribune can be seen clearly throughout this whole article. They report that Rowland was captured but make no attempt to get his side of the story or at least let him comment of the event. Next, the Tribune omits facts from the article like Sarah Page’s refusal to press charges against Dick Rowland and add their own like “she noticed the negro a few minutes before the attempt 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”, Rowland was just trying to use the restroom like he had many times before without incident. And the last line of the article has no journalistic value of the event, it’s simply a journalist trying to gain sympathy for Sarah Page and it further enraged the white community against Rowland.

 

 

     The Race Riot Commission was formed in 1997 to exhaustively research the riot found many hidden facts in the courthouse and Historical Society archives. Master maps were located which identified property parcels and owners. One member, Jim Lloyd, a local attorney, found records of 150 civil property loss suits filed after the race riot. Missing for 35 years, they were due to be shredded when he discovered them. Unlike their forebears, many Tulsans volunteered to help the Commission. Recorded interviews were conducted with half the survivors. Information and transcripts from others were shared by historians and collectors (Commission 1,7).

Today most Tulsans are still unaware of the race riot. Many of those who do know would like it to be forgotten. Part of Tulsa’s history is being lost.  Michelle Brown noted that famous producers have come to Tulsa and go to the Greenwood Center, wishing to make a documentary of the race riot, but nothing ever materializes. It is a shame that the riot occurred, and a continuing tragedy that knowledge of it is not widespread. This has been remedied somewhat recently with the Race Riot Commission Report, and the John Hope Franklin Park, but more needs to be done to preserve awareness of this event.


 

Aftermath

Rebuilding Greenwood

 

     In the first few days after the riot, any efforts by Tulsa’s black citizens were prevented by the fact that they were interned, supposedly for their protection, but more realistically to prevent any retaliation against white Tulsans. The two local black newspapers, blamed for the riot, were shut down, but Theodore Baugham, the Oklahoma Sun editor, managed to print a small newspaper listing people attempting to locate their family members (Ellsworth 74). Any black person on the streets during the daytime had to carry a green card labeled Police Protection, listing their name, address, and employer, until July 7, 1921. The printing of these was paid for by the City Commission (Ellsworth 72).

 

     There were limited humanitarian efforts by white churches, who brought sandwiches, coffee, clothing, bedding, household items and utensils to assist the needy. A Tulsa trunk manufacturer donated 50 pieces of luggage for the homeless to use, but by mid June the African Americans were largely on their own. Two groups, The East End Welfare Board and Colored Citizens Relief Committee and the Red Cross were the main sources of assistance. Mary E. Jones Parrish wrote that “These men worked faithfully,…fought many battles for their fellowman,…looked after the needs of the people both physically and legally to the best of their ability, with the assistance of the outside world” (Ellsworth 79). The Red Cross was active until December 1921. It paid train fare for destitute black citizens wishing to leave Tulsa, and half fare for those who were better off.

African Americans across the nation sent assistance. The NAACP collected $1,900 for a “Tulsa Relief and Defense Fund.” The black New York City YMCA sent two barrels of clothing, shipped free by the express company. More help would have arrived if it had not been for the intervention by Tulsa’s white Executive Welfare Committee, later the Reconstruction Committee. Tasked with rehabilitative work to “bring Tulsa back to normalcy” Alva J. Niles, Chamber of Commerce president and L.J. Martin, Welfare Committee chairman, swore that Tulsans would take care of their own. “Tulsa feels intensely humiliated and …pledges its every effort in wiping out the stain…the disgrace and disaster.” “ The rest of the United States must know that the real citizenship of Tulsa weeps at this unspeakable crime and will make good the damage, so far as can be done to the last penny” (Ellsworth 83).

 

     Some of the white Tulsans purposefully refused outside help, even a $1,000 cash offer from the Chicago Tribune. Tulsa Mayor Evans appointed a Real Estate Exchange to detail and appraise property values in the burned-out area, so that the site could be purchased and converted to a wholesale and industrial district. On June 14, 1921 he suggested to the City Commission “Let the negro settlement be placed farther to the north and east;… a large portion of this district is well suited for industrial purposes than for residences…We should immediately get in touch with all the railroads with a view to establishing a Union station on this ground. The location is ideal and …convenient” (Ellsworth 85).  The black property owners, of course were not in favor of this plan. After claiming to the nation that they would rebuild Greenwood, white Tulsa set about preventing her black citizens from rebirthing their community upon its former site (Ellsworth 89).

     During the winter of 1921-22; 1,000 black Tulsans lived in tents, by summer 1922 wooden buildings had replaced the tents, and brick buildings were rising along Greenwood Avenue (Ellsworth 90). Black Tulsans lacked the capital to rebuild, and had lost property worth millions of dollars. They borrowed money from out of state.

 Black churches were the center of community life, and eight of them were damaged or destroyed by fire on May 31, 1921. It took 21 years of perseverance and skimping to pay off the original mortgage of Mount Zion Baptist Church. Brand new in 1921, it was burned to the ground during the riot. Not until 1952 was their new sanctuary completed (Johnson 87).  Vernon Chapel AME was heavily damaged. First Baptist Church of North Tulsa was not burned by rioters because it was near a white housing area, and the rioters thought it was a white church. (Johnson 83, 87, 92).

 

     Several African American lawyers were skilled and courageous enough to assist their fellow citizens in filing property loss claims. They operated out of a tent in the days following the riot. They filed a district court lawsuit to deal with white efforts to seize black-owned property outside the due process of law, and defended African Americans unjustly charged with riot-related “crimes” (Johnson 95-96) By August 1925 the National Negro Business League held its annual meeting in Tulsa, and observed the efforts of black business owners to reconstruct their livelihoods, without insurance or bank loans. (Johnson 98) The same was true of homeowners who had to go out of state to get financing help. By the 1930’s the Greenwood business district had been rebuilt, and in 1938, the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce was formed to encourage civic activity (Johnson 101). Greenwood thrived with the onset of World War II, and its demand for war goods. When black servicemen returned from overseas duty defending freedom they found that discrimination and segregation still limited their ability to earn a living and participate fully in the American dream (Johnson 103.) The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s improved life for African Americans, but the ending of segregation greatly decreased the prosperity of Greenwood, since 90% of black income, $12-15 million, was spent outside Greenwood. Black citizens free to shop elsewhere did so (Johnson 113). Urban renewal further weakened Greenwood when Interstate 244 dissected the area. At its peak in 1942 Greenwood contained 242 black businesses within 35 square city blocks. By 1978 only one block of Greenwood remained occupied (Johnson 116). By 1980 efforts were underway to restore Greenwood as a viable economic area (Johnson 118).

 

Lasting Legacy 

 

Cultural Center

     The Greenwood Cultural Center was opened on October 22, 1995 as a way to promote the area of Greenwood and its history. The center was built at a cost of about $3 million. The center features a museum, art gallery of African-American art, large event hall, and once held Oklahoma Jazz Hall. It also promotes events for education. The center is a beginning of rebuilding of the once the thriving community of Greenwood.

   

 

 

John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park

 

     Across from the newly constructed OneOK Field is a park to pay tribute and rememberance to the most horrific event in the city's history. The park was born out of the original idea of a museum and memorial to the riot. This plan was brought to light by the Race Riot Commission from 2001. The park comemorates 36 confirmed deaths and hundreds more wounded sustained during the destruction of the Greenwood, once a growing and flourishing community. Inside the park are two skillfully crafted statues that reflect the victims struggles during the riot designed by artist Ed Dwight. Orginally planned to have the same budget as the Oklahoma Bombing Memorial of 5 million dollars; it was never met. Instead the park was built by state, local, and private funds together. The John Hope Franklin Center for Reciliation will take on the overseeing and upkeep of the park. Unforntunately, Franklin himself died in 2009 when the park was only in its ground-breaking stages. The park finally opened on October 20, 2010. In attendance was U.S Representive John Sullivan who is working on getting the park official status with the National Park Service (Krehbiel).

  

  

 

 John W. Franklin (John Hope Franklin's son)

"I've been coming to Tulsa since I was 2 years old, I've seen it grow in that time, but only in the last year ... have I seen it acknowledge this painful point of its history. But if you don't know your history, you can't learn from it" (Krehbiel).

 

 

 

 

Randy Krehibiel's "Park Challenges Tulsans to Heal Wounds That Remain" article in the Tulsa World had a interesting Q&A on the riot:

 

Q: Who was John Hope Franklin?

 

A: Dr. John Hope Franklin was the scholar's scholar in the academic world of historians. He was born in Rentiesville and graduated as the valedictorian of his Booker T. Washington High School class. He was and is an "Oklahoma Cultural Treasure," as designated by the state of Oklahoma. Dr. Franklin was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His life's work consisted of putting the relationship between blacks and whites into the proper prospective.

 

Q: Why is a park commemorating Tulsa's 1921 Race Riot named for him?

 

A: Dr. Franklin transformed the literary world with his book "From Slavery To Freedom," which sold over 3 million copies and reshaped the study of black history in America. He is Tulsa's most honored academic, with more than 130 honorary degrees. Although the tragic Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 kept him from joining his father for over four years, he spent a lifetime trying to heal racial differences. He deserves this honor.

 

Q: What is the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation?

 

A: The park opening Wednesday is the first of two phases. Phase II will include a facility to house John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, which will be dedicated to racial and ethnic understanding. The center will serve as the hub for economic revitalization in downtown Tulsa and host a consortium of academic institutions, historical societies and other facilities appropriate for a historical site of national significance.

 

Tulsa's journey to social harmony requires an appropriate setting where the full community - white, black, and other ethnic groups - can reflect, study and understand, a place for sincere dialogue and reconciliation.

 

By honoring one of Tulsa's most prominent sons, the Center for Reconciliation continues Dr. John Hope Franklin's lifelong work and his devotion to study, reasoned analysis and social progress.

 

Q: Why should the 1921 riot be remembered at all?

 

A: The 1921 riot should be remembered because one of the great failures of our society is man's inhumanity toward his fellow man. The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 stands as a stark reminder of this horrible ethos that belies us all as human beings.

 

The Tulsa Race Riot Report, issued in 2000, chronicles for the first time officially, the horrors that occurred over those two days of infamy in 1921. The destruction of property and loss of lives was disregarded for decades. Now, Oklahomans are challenged with the opportunity and responsibility to begin to heal some of the wounds that still remain.

 

While we understand that no amount of money, no monument regardless of size and scope, and no other offerings of remuneration and expression of sorrow can ever restore what was lost nor compensate for the human horror that took place, we still must try. And by trying to do what is right, perhaps we enhance that healing process and, at the same time, educate our young people about what can happen when people allow hate and prejudice to invade their souls.

 

We as a city must not pass up this incredible opportunity and awesome responsibility. This journey in the coming months and years will be enlightening, painful, educational and crucial for the future welfare of our city, state and nation. We must approach the task before us with humility and passion.

 

 

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Works Cited

 

Brown, Michelle. Tour of Cultural Center, March 2010.

 

Commission, Oklahoma. Tulsa Race Riot- A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Commission Report. Tulsa: Oklahoma Commission, 2001.

 

Ellsworth, Scott. Death in a Promised Land- The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Baton Rouge: Louisianna State      University Press, 1982.

 

Halliburton, Jr., R. "The Tulsa Race War of 1921." Journal of Black Studies March 1972: 333-357 .

 

Johnson, Hannibal B. Black Wall Street. Austin: Eakin Press, 1998.

 

Johnson, Hannibal B. Lecture, March 2010. 

 

Lipsitz, George. "The Possessive Investment in Whiteness" American Quarterly. Sept 1995. 369-387.

Omi, Michael. "Racial Formations in the United States" The Social Construction of Difference: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality.1986, 13-21

 

Parrish, Mary E. Jones. An Eye-witness Account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot by Mrs. Mary E. Jones Parrish as published in 1923: John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, 2009 Edition. 

 

 

Krehbiel, Randy. “Park Challenges Tulsans to Heal Wounds That Remain.” Tulsa World 24 Oct. 2010.  30 Oct. 2010. <http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20101024_16_A8_CUTLIN947462&archive=yes>

 

Krehbiel, Randy. “Tulsa's History Lesson.” Tulsa World 28 Oct. 2010. 30 Oct. 2010. <http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20101028_16_A1_CUTLIN389714&archive=yes>

 

 

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