Picture Source

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 guardsmen 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, graduate student.

Please note: the links in these kits go to either a source on the web, an OU Libraries’ resource, requiring you to login with your OUNetID (4×4), or a companion Canvas page, requiring you to enroll here before you can access the document. The links open in a new window/tab. Report link problems to lscrivener@ou.edu.

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“$2,500,000 of Negro Property Destroyed.” The Black Dispatch, June 3, 1921, pp. 1, 5.

Barrett, Charles F. (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. (Companion Canvas page.)

Carlson, I. Marc. “Selected Postcards.” The Tulsa Race Massacre (blog). Accessed July 27, 2020.

Dunjee, Roscoe. “Editorial: A White Man’s Country.” The Black Dispatch, June 3, 1921.

George Baker to James Robertson, Folder 16, Box 3, RG 8-D-1-3, Oklahoma State Archives, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City, OK. (Companion Canvas page.)

Interview of Binkley Wright, Eyewitness Accounts, n.d.

Interview of Juanita Delores Burnett Arnold, Eyewitness Accounts, n.d.

Interview of Kinney I. Booker, Eyewitness Accounts, n.d.

Interview of Otis Clark, Voices of Oklahoma, November 23, 2009. (Sound recording.)

Interview of Wessley Hubert “Wess” Young, Sr., Voice of Oklahoma, August 21, 2009. (Sound recording.)

Interview with Major Frank Van Voorhis, October 25, 1937, Works Progress Administration, Indian-Pioneer Oral History Project, Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

“Kill Ordinance!” The Black Dispatch, September 8, 1921, p. 1.

“Loot, Arson, Murder!” The Black Dispatch, June 10, 1921, p. 1.

“Many Thousands Leave Tulsa.” The Black Dispatch, June 17, 1921, p. 1.

“Release Dick Rowland.” The Black Dispatch, September 29, 1921, p.1.

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. (Companion Canvas page.)

“To Rebuild Greenwood.” The Black Dispatch, June 24, 1921, p. 1.

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.

“Tulsa Negroes Collect Insurance.” The Black Dispatch, August 19, 1921, p. 1.

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. (Companion Canvas page.)

White, Walter F. “Eruption of Tulsa.” The Nation 112 (June 29, 1921): 909–10. (Companion Canvas page.)

Willows, Maurice. “Burnings,” n.d., Report, Tulsa Race Riot Disaster Relief, American Red Cross, Tulsa Race Massacre Collection, Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, Tulsa, OK. (Companion Canvas page.)

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Chang, David A. “The Battle for Whiteness: Making Whites in a White Man’s Country, 1916–1924.” In The Color of the LandRace, Nation, and the Politics of Landownership in Oklahoma, 1832-1929, 175–204. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. (Companion Canvas page.)

Halliburton, R. “The Tulsa Race War of 1921.” Journal of Black Studies 2, no. 3 (1972): 333–57.

Messer, Chris M., 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 & Sociology 77, no. 3/4 (May 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. (Companion Canvas page.)

Teague, Hollie A. “Bullets and Ballots: Destruction, Resistance, and Reaction in 1920s Texas and Oklahoma.” Great Plains Quarterly 39, no. 2 (May 4, 2019): 159–77.

Williams, Chad Louis. “The War at Home: African American Veterans and the Long ‘Red Summer.’” In Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era, 223–60. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.