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The Tulsa Competition Riots Of 1921 History Essay

The Tulsa Contest Riot of 1921 was one of the very most traumatic contest riots in the annals of america. Evaluating the incidents in retrospect, its hard to make clear how this ordeal, you start with simply a simple encounter within an elevator, would have escalated into one of the deadliest extra-military issues ever to occur on American land. How was it a scream noticed by almost no one was able to directly bring about the amassing of thousands in an irritated mob? And exactly how do that unruly mob then gain the help of the very authorities that were delivered to put it down? I propose that this was all possible because of the factor of racism known as representative realism which was facilitated by personal biases and sensationalist press accounts.

The sensation of representative realism occurs when a subconscious set of mental "filters" developed from our beliefs and experiences weighs about heavily inside our interpretation of certainty. In this specific illustration, the 'filters' were composed of racist ideas, creating certain truths to be warped by the biases of the observer. In cases like this, two 'truths' were distorted, first, that concerning the events that sparked the riot, and, second, that involving what was occurring through the riot itself.

To understand all this, we should first have a thorough knowledge of the happenings. This starts not with the firing of the first injections or despite having the string of seemingly insignificant events that led to the first indications of difficulty. Somewhat, one must begin with the zeitgeist, and consider the planet as Tulsans do in May of 1921. We need not only know how this tragedy could happen, but why, in the long run, it performed.

Of all the features that impressed visitors to the location of Tulsa in the days before the competition riots, one of them was just how modern it was. Just lately constructed office structures stood downtown, mechanized vehicles rumbled back and forth along Main Avenue, and rows of newly painted properties stood in personal neighborhoods. In comparison to other cities in your community, Tulsa was little or nothing less than a sensation. Actually, Tulsa has grown so much therefore quickly that local tourism promoters called it the Magic City.

However, the Chamber of Business brochures and postcards did not show you everything. Tulsa was for some reason, not just one but two metropolitan areas. In the shadow of the growing center, there is another community all unto itself. Some disparagingly called it "Little Africa" though in later years it became known simply as 'Greenwood'. In early 1921, it was the house of almost ten thousand African-American men, women and children. 5, 6

Most residents of Tulsa's mostly African American suburb arrived to Oklahoma, like their white neighborhood friends through the great boom just before and after Oklahoma achieved statehood. Some originated from Mississippi, some from Missouri, as well as others completely from Georgia. For most, Oklahoma represented not only a chance to escape the tough realities of race in their former Old South state governments, but actually a land of expectation, a place to start over.

The backbone of the city was Greenwood Avenue. Running for over a mile, the street experienced a certain symbolic meaning. Unlike Tulsa's other pavements, which crossed into both dark-colored and white neighborhoods, Greenwood Avenue was present only in the BLACK community. 9

For a community of its size, the business enterprise district of Greenwood offered an extraordinary range of commercial buildings. John and Loula Williams, who got a three tale building on the northwest area of Greenwood Avenue and Archer Road, also managed the Dreamland Theatre, a 150 chair place that offered live music and theatrical revues as well as silent movies combined with pianist. Nearby where in fact the buildings that housed practically most of Tulsa's dark-colored professional offices. There have been a minimum of ten of every in every the major occupations and the best tally was fifteen ' the number of African American doctors in Tulsa during the riots. 11

The intellectual culture on Greenwood was also surprising, at least by standards within the region. There were not just one but two dark-colored magazines ' the Tulsa Superstar and the Oklahoma Sun. Afro-Americans were barred from using the new Carnegie library in the city's centre, so an inferior black collection branch was produced, and had become replete using its own unique offerings. Nationally known African American leaders like WEB Dubois acquired even educated in Tulsa before the riot. In addition, Greenwood was also home to an area group of businesses, several fraternal requests, a branch of the YMCA, and many women's clubs. The past of these was populated by the community's extra school teachers, the number of whom in use was never less than thirty.

Political issues of the day also attracted considerable interest. The Tulsa Star, specifically, provided not only extensive coverage of nationwide, status and local political promotions and election results, but also dedicated sizeable space to record activities in local golf clubs of black Democrats and Republicans. In addition, the Legend also covered some quasi-political movements, including Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association, various back-to-Africa actions, plus some nationalist organizations. One particular group, the African Blood vessels Brotherhood, later stated to have had a section on Greenwood before the riot. 12

Around a nearby were many small stores, barbers, and two family-owned food markets. Prior to the riot, these businesses made Greenwood, on a per capita basis, one of the very most financially successful DARK-COLORED communities in the united states. Grit, hard work and willpower were the key reasons for this success. Entrepreneurial nature had been imported to Tulsa from small areas in the outlying rural areas.

There were also other reasons. Tulsa booming economy was a key point, as was the fact that, in general, Greenwood was simply the only the place where black Tulsans could thought we would shop. Due to the city's mandate of personal segregation, blacks were generally barred from patronizing downtown retailers managed by whites, or at least risk insult if they tried. Even though many dark-colored Tulsans made a mindful decision to sponsor the DARK-COLORED merchants, the actual fact of the matter is that that a lot of experienced few other options. 15

Despite the fact that this parting appeared to be becoming more entrenched through the calendar months that preceded the riots, lots of white Tulsans feared, usually credited to sensationalist media reports, that the opposite was true. It had been mainly the Tulsa Tribune that asserted that dark Tulsa was on the rise toward equal status with white Tulsa. It had been this idea of dark-colored Tulsa's 'growing up' both within an economical and combative sense that was made by the Tribune and some other, smaller reports outlets.

The Tribune's intentionally sensational articles would be the primary ideas or 'filtration systems' that later led to instances of representational realism. Anecdotal reports were issued about blacks Tulsans overlooking or challenging Jim Crow procedures. Whites were upset at and jealous of the material success of Greenwood's top notch - a sense that there was no doubt improved by evenly sensational reviews on the sharp fall season in crude olive oil prices and the next layoffs in the olive oil industry immediately before the riots. Inside the first weeks and a few months of 1921, white Tulsans were made to fear that the colour Line was not only at risk of being slowly erased, but thought that its erasure was already happening. 42

Adding to the fear was the actual fact that, at that time, the vast majority of white Tulsans got almost no direct understanding of the BLACK community. A small number of white-owned businesses existed on Greenwood and some whites occasionally seen the area for one reason or another, but most white Tulsans got never set foot in the BLACK neighborhood and had no desire to take action in the foreseeable future. Most whites lived in all white neighborhoods, went to all white universities and churches, and worked well mainly in all white surroundings. For almost all of Tulsa's white populace, the little they understood or thought they recognized about the African-American community was founded upon racial stereotypes, deeply rooted prejudices, and, most importantly, media-driven rumor and innuendo.

Though seriously exaggerated and sometimes completely fabricated, papers accounts weren't altogether unfounded. Inside the spring and coil of 1921, serious racial troubles had been brewing not just in Tulsa but across America for quite a while. Few cycles were as turbulent as the years surrounding World Battle I. In 1919, more than two dozen different competition riots erupted in towns and towns across the country. It's important to note, however, these riots were not like those of the 1960s and 1990s, and were mainly characterized by white mobs invading BLACK neighborhoods, attacking African-American women and men, and using down homes and businesses. There wasn't one single record of the inverse having happened, an undeniable fact that Tulsa's reports outlets deliberately omitted. 19

Even before the riot, assault against dark Oklahomans was area of the national unrest. Mainly because of the conditions of frontier lawlessness, Oklahoma had long been suffering from lynchings. From 1911-1921, 23 such occasions were reported in Oklahoma. All were vigilante activities and everything 23 of the patients, save for one, were African Us citizens. 30

Tulsa specifically had turn into a bustling centre of Klan activity. Though there are no truly reliable files of membership, it's estimated that there were 3200 Klansmen in Tulsa at the time of the riot. Other information put the number at as high as 6000. To provide one a point of view on the pervasive characteristics of the Klan, an initiation wedding ceremony happened south of the location during the summertime that adopted the riot. Over one thousand news members were earned during that one evening. There were so many in attendance that a big traffic jam resulted on the road to the suburb of Broken Arrow, which sat along the route.

It was through this cultural context that on, may 30th, 1921, Dick Rowland, a dark-colored man, and Sarah Page, a white female, had a brief and initially insignificant encounter on an elevator. The scope of the event would be quickly magnified as the story was consistently re-interpreted, every time filtering through the theory matrix of individuals with racial prejudice.

Rowland was a black man of around 19 at the time that the riots occurred, though the genuine night out of his birth has been a subject of some issue. He and his two sisters had been orphans and apparently resided on the avenues of Vinita, where they slept and begged for food. When he was around six, Rowland was taken in by an African-American girl called Damien Ford, the proprietor of a small, Tulsa supermarket.

Dick Rowland would increase up in Tulsa and eventually drop out of college to take a job shining shoes in a white-owned salon located downtown on Main Streets. Footwear shines normally cost about a penny in those times, but the staff member was usually tipped at least nickel for each and every glow and sometimes made much more. Throughout a workday, a footwear shiner could pocket big money. This was seen as an especially good potential client for a young African-American for whom there would be few other employment opportunities.

There were no toilets at the salon where Dick Rowland worked well. The owner experienced arranged it so that African-American employees might use the "colored" bathrooms, in the Drexel building next door at 319 S. Main Neighborhood. To gain access to the toilet, that was located upstairs, Rowland and the other shoe shiners needed to drive the building's elevator. The lift up was not automated, and required an operator to be present at all times. This work was usually reserved for women. 79

At the end of May 1921, the Drexel building elevator operator was a white girl of seventeen named Sarah Webpage. She possessed come to Tulsa from Missouri, and it's assumed she resided in a rented room close by on North Boston Avenue. Furthermore, it was reported that Web page possessed enrolled herself in a local business institution, a move that was almost necessary in order for her to stay competitive. While Tulsa was still traveling its construction boom, some building owners possessed started to recruit African-American women to execute as lift operators at less salary than their white counterparts. 80

Dick Rowland and Sarah Site were both downtown on Monday, May 30th, 1921. At approximately 3pm Dick Rowland strolled into Sarah Page's elevator. Seconds later, Web page was read screaming, and Rowland was seen exiting the building at a quickened rate. 82

There is a great package of speculation and conversation involving what actually took place within the confines of the elevator. Subsequent to the riot, the most frequent description was that Rowland had somehow tripped as he joined the elevator and, attempting to catch his semester, acquired grabbed Page's arm triggering her to scream. Rowland then fled, obviously startled by her effect. A separate theory asserts that both were romantically included and that Webpages scream was the result of a lover's quarrel. Irrespective, all who realized Rowland, black and white, proclaimed that he was completely incapable of the rape he would be accused of. 83

The first to react to Page's cry was a worker of Renberg's clothing store, an shop on the Drexel building's first floor. He observed Page scream and saw Rowland leave the building right after. Then hurried to the lift up where he found out the disheveled Site and then called the authorities. The police appeared, took studies from the employee and Web page, and then started a low-key analysis. The next day they imprisoned Rowland at home, and carted him off to the downtown jail for handling.

Meanwhile, Richard Lloyd Jones, editor of the Tulsa Tribune, made contact both with the authorities and the Renberg's worker. It just so took place that the Tribune also possessed office buildings in the Drexel building and so he found about the function shortly after it had occurred. When the magazine contacted the authorities for comment, they were by natural means tightlipped about an ongoing investigation, and thus Jones' most important source was the Renberg's employee. That day, he released the next article:

Nab Negro for Attacking Female in Elevator

A Negro delivery boy who provided his name to the public as "Diamond Dick" but who may have been determined as Dick Rowland, was imprisoned on South Greenwood Avenue this morning by Officials Carmichael and Pack, charged with attempting to assault the 17-year-old white elevator female in the Drexel Building early on yesterday.

He will be tried in municipal court docket today on circumstances charge.

The gal said she recognized the Negro a few momemts prior to the attempted assault looking up and down the hallway on the third floor of the Drexel Building as if to see if there is anyone around the corner but thought little or nothing of it at the time.

A short while later he got into the elevator she stated, and attacked her, scratching her hands and face and tearing her clothes. Her screams helped bring a clerk from Renberg's store to her assistance and the Negro fled. He was captured and discovered this morning both by the girl and the clerk, law enforcement officials say.

Tenants of the Drexel Building said the girl is an orphan who works as an elevator operator to pay her way through business college or university. 89

Immediately subsequent to this publication, chat of lynching begun. Ross T. Warner, the supervisor of the downtown office buildings of the Tulsa Machine and Tool Company, composed that after the Tribune came out that afternoon, "the discussion of lynching spread such as a prairie open fire. "94

Talk soon converted into action. As expression of the alleged intimate assault in the Drexel Building spread, a group of whites started to assemble on the road outside of the Tulsa State Courthouse, in whose jail Dick Rowland was being placed. As people received off of work, and the news headlines of the alleged invasion reported in the Tribune became more greatly dispersed anywhere, more and more white Tulsans, infuriated with what had supposedly occurred in the Drexel Building, started to gather outside the courthouse at Sixth and Boulder. By sunset -- which came up at 7:34 p. m. that evening -- observers approximated that the group had grown into the hundreds. Shortly later on, cries of "Let us contain the nigger" could be observed. 95

By 9:30 p. m. , the white mob beyond your courthouse had swollen to almost two- thousand individuals. They obstructed the sidewalks as well as the pavements, and possessed spilled over onto leading lawns of local homes. In the city's DARK-COLORED neighborhoods, meanwhile, tension continued to mount over the increasingly ugly situation down at the courthouse. A number of the men, however, made the decision that they could hang on no more. Hopping into cars, small sets of armed DARK-COLORED men started out to make simple forays into downtown, their guns visible to passersby.

As the black men were leaving the courthouse for the second time, a white man contacted a tall DARK-COLORED World Battle I veteran who was simply taking an army-issue revolver. "Nigger", the white man said, "What exactly are you doing with this pistol?" "I'm going to use it if I need to, " replied the dark veteran. "No, you give it if you ask me. " Like hell I'll. " The white man tried out to take the firearm away from the veteran, and a go rang out. America's most severe race riot had begun. 106

While the first shot terminated at the courthouse may have been unintentional, the ones that followed were not. Almost immediately, people of the white mob -- and possibly some police officers -- opened fire on the DARK-COLORED men, who delivered volleys of their own. The original gunplay lasted just a few seconds, but when it was over, an undiscovered number of men and women -- perhaps as many as twelve -- both dark and white, lay down - dead or wounded. 107

Outnumbered more than twenty-to-one, the dark men commenced a retreating combat toward the DARK-COLORED district. With equipped whites in close pursuit, heavy gunfire erupted again along Fourth Avenue, two blocks north of the courthouse. 108

A brief while later, another, deadlier, skirmish broke out at Second and Cincinnati. No longer directly associated with the destiny of Dick Rowland, the beleaguered second contingent of BLACK men were now fighting for his or her own lives. Seriously outnumbered by the whites, and suffering some casualties on the way, most were evidently able, however, to make it properly across the Frisco railroad tracks, and into the more familiar environs of the DARK-COLORED community. 110

Shortly thereafter, whites started out breaking into downtown shoe stores, pawnshops, and hardware stores, stealing -- or "borrowing" as some would later declare -- guns and ammunition. Dick Bardon's store on First Neighborhood was especially hard strike as well as the J. W. MeGee Sporting Goods shop at 22 W. Second Block, even though it was located literally next door from police headquarters. The owner later testified that a Tulsa police officer helped to dole out the guns that were taken from his store. 113

It looks that the first fires arranged by whites in dark-colored neighborhoods started out at about 1:00 a. m. BLACK homes and businesses along Archer were the earliest targets, so when an engine team from the Tulsa Open fire Department arrived and prepared to douse the flames, white rioters obligated the firemen away at gunpoint. By 4:00 a. m. , more than two-dozen black-owned businesses, including the Midway Hotel, have been torched. 121

On the evening of May 31st, the National Guard was deployed to diffuse the escalating conflict. 'At roughly 11:00 p. m. , perhaps as much as fifty local National Guardsmen -- almost all of whom have been contacted at their homes -- acquired accumulated at the armory on 6th Neighborhood. The Tulsa items of the Country wide Guard were specifically white.

Once equipped, guardsmen started to lead groups of armed whites on "patrols" of downtown roadways. This activity was later taken over by associates of the also all-white North american Legion. Tulsa police officials also aided the guard, offered the guardsmen with a machine weapon mounted on the back of a vehicle.

Taking the device firearm with them, about thirty guardsmen going north, and located themselves along Detroit Avenue between Brady Avenue and Standpipe Hill, along one of the borders separating the city's white and dark neighborhoods. The "skirmish brand" that the National Guard officers established was set-up facing the DARK-COLORED district. Additionally, the guardsmen also began rounding up black Tulsans, whom they handed over -- as prisoners -- to the police.

While some dark Tulsans thought we would stay and battle, most realized the futility of doing so and tried get themselves and their families to safety. That they had been outmanned and outgunned when facing the white civilians by themselves. Now the opposition was aided by the authorities and National Guardsmen. In the early hours of June 1, a steady stream of black Tulsans started to leave the city, hoping to find safety in the encompassing countryside. "Early at night when there was first converse of trouble, " Irene Scofield later told the African american Dispatch, "I and about forty others started out of the city and strolled to a little town about fifteen mls away. " Others subscribing to the exodus, however, were not as lucky. Billy Hudson, an African American laborer who resided on Archer, hitched up his wagon as conditions grew worse, and lay out -- with his grandchildren by his aspect - for Nowata. He was killed by whites along the way. 130

In the pre-dawn time of June l, a large number of equipped whites, led by National Guardsmen, had obtained in three main clusters over the north fringes of downtown, contrary Greenwood. One group had put together behind the Frisco freight depot, while another waited close by at the Frisco and Santa Fe passenger place. Four blocks to the north, a third public was clustered at the Katy traveler depot. Although it is unclear just how many individuals were in each group, some contemporary observers estimated the full total number of equipped whites who had gathered as high as five or ten thousand. 141

Several eyewitnesses later recalled that when dawn emerged at 5:08 a. m. that morning, an unusual whistle or siren sounded, perhaps as a signal for the mass assault on Greenwood to begin. Although the source of this whistle or siren is still unknown, occasions later, the white mobs made their move. Crowds of armed whites poured across the Frisco tracks, headed direct for the BLACK commercial district. 146

Numerous other eyewitnesses --both dark and white -- verify the presence of your unknown range of airplanes flying over Greenwood through the early hours of sunlight of June 1. There is little hesitation but that some of the occupants of the airplanes terminated upon black Tulsans with pistols and rifles. Moreover, there is facts, to claim that men in at least one aircraft dropped some type of explosives, probably sticks of dynamite, upon a group of DARK-COLORED refugees as these were fleeing the town. 153

As the waves of white rioters descended upon the BLACK district, a fatal pattern soon emerged. First, the armed whites broke in to the dark-colored homes and businesses, forcing the occupants out in to the street, where the police and Country wide Shield led them away at gunpoint to 1 of a growing number of internment centers. Anyone who resisted was taken. Moreover, DARK-COLORED men in homes where firearms were learned achieved the same destiny. Next, the whites looted the homes and businesses, pocketing small items, and hauling away bigger items either on foot or by car. Finally, the white rioters then place the homes and other structures on fire, using torches and oil-soaked rags. House by house, block by stop, the wall of flame crept northward, engulfing the city's dark neighborhoods. 155

Attempts by dark-colored Tulsans to defend their homes and property were undercut by the activities of both Tulsa law enforcement officials and the neighborhood National Guard systems, who, somewhat than focus on disarming or arresting the white rioters, required steps that led to the eventual imprisonment of practically all of the city's African Americans. 162

As the morning wore on, and the fighting migrated northward across Greenwood, the guardsmen who have been positioned over the crest of Sunset Hill started to actively interact the invasion of dark-colored Tulsa, with one detachment going north, the other to the northeast. As later referred to by Captain John W. McCuen in the after action survey he posted to the commander of Tulsa's Country wide Guard products:

We advanced to the crest of Sunset Hill in skirmish range and a little further north to the military services crest of the hill where our men were bought to lay down as a result of intense hearth of the blacks who experienced made a good skirmish line at the base of the hill to the northeast among the list of out-buildings of the Negro pay out which can stop at the foot of the hill. After about 20 minutes of "fire at will" at the equipped sets of blacks the last mentioned began falling back to the northeast, thus getting good cover among the frame buildings of the Negro settlement deal. Immediately we relocated ahead, "B" Company improving straight north and the Company in a north-easterly direction. 173

The guardsmen then came upon several African People in the usa barricaded in the store, who were attempting to postpone a mob of equipped white rioter's. Instead of attempt to get the white invaders and the black defenders to disengage, the guardsmen joined in on the strike. Again, as identified by Captain McCuen:

At the northeast corner of the Negro settlement 10 or more Negroes barricaded themselves in a concrete store and dwelling and a stiff attack ensued between these Negroes on one part and guardsmen and civilians on the other. Several whites and blacks were wounded and wiped out at this time. 174

At roughly 11am on June 1st, the governor intervened, phoning for martial laws. State Soldiers were dispatched and began to go into what little continued to be of Tulsa's BLACK neighborhoods, disarming whites and mailing them away from the region. This helped bring the rioting to a finish. 197

As previously explained, there were two 'truths' distorted by representative realism. The first was that regarding the events that sparked the riot. It was a single cry by Sarah Site that set in motion the events that would finally leave half the city in devastation. This escalation took place as the accounting of incidents proceeded along a string of racially-biased informational relay. At each level or 'hyperlink' in the string, representational realism resulted in dissonance between what actually occurred and what was perceived and recounted to another link.

The Renberg's worker served as this chain's first website link. It is known that the staff listened to what he got as a scream of stress, saw Rowland exit the building post-haste, and hurried to the lift where he found out a discombobulated Site. The subsequent police report notes little or nothing of any bruising or convert clothing and, more importantly, it does not remember that Sarah Page stated to get been raped. What it can take note of, however, is the fervent assertion by the Renberg's employee that a rape do happen, despite all together admitting that he hadn't actually seen anything happen.

The second hyperlink in the string was Richard Lloyd Jones, editor of the Tulsa Tribune. When Jones received the information from the Renberg's employee, it handed down through Jones' own filtration systems which, in addition to including racist inclinations, caused him to interpret the information in conditions of its usefulness in selling magazines. Thus, he deliberately sensationalized the information resulting in the following day's incendiary headline.

The third and final link was the public who received the newspaper. During the period of the weeks and months that proceeded, the Tribune's sensationalist tales had given them notion that a black uprising was imminent. When they later saw dark-colored Tulsans drive by the courthouse using their weapons on display, their evaluation was filtered through this before notion, and led them to react as if an uprising was occurring, even though all data directed to the contrary. Obviously an individual carload of blacks hadn't intended to 'climb up' against a thousand-strong mob of whites.

This contributes to the second, truth that was distorted by representative realism, which concerned that which was actually occurring during the riot itself. It really is apparent to any impartial party that the black community's position was protective for the duration of the conflict, and it was the white community that was employed in an 'uprising'. The National Guardsman, however, responded as though the contrary were true. That is much more serious than the similar action exhibited by white civilians, as the Shield was commissioned with the duty of rebuilding order. Moreover they were briefed at length prior to being deployed. These were well aware that the riot started out as an aggression toward the dark community in response to an effort by a small band of blacks to defend a prisoner from a lawless mob of whites.

Nonetheless, arriving on the arena of the issue already underway and seeing armed blacks take purpose at opposing whites, it's clear that the 'negro uprising' idea filtered the guardsmen's conception and led to an ugly analysis of the circumstances. This was the idea they abided despite the fact that almost all issues took place in the black part of town and the actual fact that the dark-colored side was more often than not outnumbered. Probably the most startling evidence of the role of representative realism was seen after the event, when Country wide Guard officers were debriefed. Despite now being in a non-hostile environment and being put on record, several guardsmen actually used the term 'negro uprising' and used the word "enemy" in reference to the black society these were dispatched to protect.

Given the facts of what occurred, it seems almost impossible for anybody to attended to the final outcome that Sarah Page was raped or that a Negro uprising was taking place on the next day. However, with the space of just a few hours, both of these beliefs were almost ubiquitous amongst a community of thousands. This is actually the electric power of representative realism. After the right preconceived notions have been impressed, it takes merely a certain trigger, and anyone, regardless of duty or morality, can be influenced to do the extreme.

Lawrence Alex Reed TERM PAPER Webpage 1

African-Americans Representative Realism and the Tulsa Contest Riot


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