The Story of Greenwood

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“The Tulsa Race cannot afford to bury this Massacre is a tragic, history any longer. It is heartbreaking, terrible critically important that and terribly important our children– all of our time in America’s history. children – understand We have hid from that what happened a century chapter, run from that ago, and why. This is a chapter, buried that story that must be told.” chapter of our history – Arne Duncan, for far too long.The great former US Secretary grandfather of my best of Education friend, John Rogers, owned the successful Stradford Hotel, and lost everything in the massacre, but was lucky to escape with his life. We simply

the district


Tulsa Education Guide

the massacre

the rebirth

Table of Contents Forward Overview Note to Facilitators

6 8 8

Chapter 1: The District Section 1 – Before there was a State, there was the Territory Section 2 – All-Black Towns of Oklahoma Section 3 – Greenwood District & Black Wall Street Discussion Questions Recommended Student Tasks Continued Reading

11 13 16 20

Chapter 2: The Massacre Section 1- May 31th, 1921 Section 2- Causes and Catalysts - Local Factors Section 3- Causes and Catalysts - National Factors Discussion Questions Recommended Student Tasks Continued Reading

31 33 40 44

Chapter 3: The Rebirth Section 1- The Aftermath Section 2- Greenwood Rising Section 3- Greenwood Descendants Discussions Questions Recommended Student Tasks Continued Reading

55 57 61 62


Foreward We are humbled to have been afforded the opportunity to work on something so deeply meaningful. As Black people, the past year has been life altering - we lived through a global pandemic that ravaged communities of color around the world, and witnessed an economic downturn that so many are still fighting to recover from.

Black, white and Native American - this is a piece of our shared legacy. This is our gift to you, to the history of the United States, and to the future of education. Knowledge is power. Do not ignore the dark corners, otherwise they will continue to haunt us. Let us learn from these moments so that we can harness the power to catalyze necessary change together.

All these moments have galvanized us to dig even deeper into this work and to ensure that we tell these stories, no matter the opposition. For we are well aware With this knowledge in hand, we hope you can help of the responsibility we have to the generations that reframe United States history through your own storyhave raised us and those still to come. telling and by honoring the legacy of those that came before us. These times demand an honest accounting of our nation’s history. This is not an easy path, it is challenging Stacie Gillian and we anticipate resistance as people reconcile diffiJordan Vaughn cult truths. But we pride ourselves on leading by bracing differences, allowing them to bring us together in conversation - and lifting up curiosity, not fear. Silenced conversations of the past must be brought to light. amplified. Space must be made for young people to ask questions and call on their ancestors’ stories. That is true reconciliation - making space even for those who are not in concert with you. The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is a piece of our collective history that cannot be ignored.


“The destruction of Black Wall Street remains the largest loss of life by “Our Greenwood families homegrown terrorism in “The Tulsa Race Massacre were fine upstanding Oklahoma. Over 300 people of 1921 is the largest members of our community, government-sanctioned were murdered.” who simply wanted a piece attack against American of the American Dream but citizens to this day. One – Bobby Eaton SR truly received a Nightmare. thing that’s very important Today, we honor their to understand is that instead Strength, Courage, and of inheriting our birthright Tenacity in the midst of one of of the generational wealth the worst atrocities not only that should have been passed in Tulsa but US history. This down to the descendants of teaches us as a whole that the citizens of Greenwood, “It takes true courage to face when we face adversities in we have inherited post the truth, especially when our own lives to Never Give traumatic stress and the truth is painful and ugly. Up! KeepThe Faith! and My great grandfather, J.B. generational economic For many decades, those Stradford, was a pioneer Keep Moving Forward! insecurity. We must learn that survived the 1921 race with a track record of from this historical event to massacre lived in a city that – Brenda Nails-Alford, “making good trouble,” as ensure that we take every hid and denied truth. Now the Nails Family John Lewis would say. While measure necessary so that 100 years later what once the financial losses for our this dark stain in U.S. history hid in the dark shadows is family were vast, my great never repeats itself.” now being acknowledged. grandfather passed on a The acknowledgment is legacy of standing up to – Raven Mijia, important to me as healing injustice. His entrepreneurial Family of AJ Smitherman can now begin. Although spirit and passion for (founder of The Tulsa Star) we have a long journey economic justice are part of “My grandparents ahead of us on the road to my DNA. courageously took a firm reconciliation and justice, I stand to fight racial injustice. feel the Tulsa community – John W. Rogers, Jr. To finally honor, address and can improve as long as we Co-CEO, Ariel acknowledge their suffrage Investments refuse to hide again. Hence, and tenacity during a dark the educational guide is period in American history is extremely important, because truly a remarkable blessing.” we have to keep talking, teaching and learning about – Lea Michelle Cash, the Tulsa Race Massacre Family of Jack and other similar events and Daisy Scott to prevent history from repeating itself.” – Tracy Gibbs, Family of Ernestine Gibbs

Tulsa Education Guide



Note to Facilitators

Standards Connection

This education guide focuses on the history and legacy of the Greenwood District of Tulsa Oklahoma from its inception to present day. It challenges us to see Greenwood not only for the Massacre that took place there, but for the community that was developed and thrived prior to May 31st, 1921 and the resilience and tenacity of this community as it continues to rebuild.

This guide has been designed to support users & facilitators in engaging in high-level discussions about the Tulsa Race Massacre. This educational guide has been divided into three (3) modules:

This educational guide has been aligned to the Oklahoma State Academic Standards for High School Social Studies, as well as Advanced Placement US Government & Politics. The complete Oklahoma Academic State Standards document can be found here. The AP US Government & Politics Units, Learning Objectives and Instructional Strategies can be found here.

The holistic and accurate history of Greenwood has been long hidden and hard to find in one place. This education guide serves to solve that issue by creating a comprehensive story that can be used to tell and examine Greenwood’s amazing history. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our young people to face this chapter in American history. To do so, we must be armed with the facts. This guide will utilize first person accounts, documents, and various text to do just that.

The District The Massacre The Rebirth This mini unit consists of three (3) modules, and is designed to take 8-10 instructional days to complete. Educators are encouraged to use this resource to engage students in discourse on the history of the Greenwood district from reconstruction to present day. Within each unit, the organizational components of this guide are as follows:

Section Content Section Discussion Questions Student Task


Tulsa Education Guide

To accompany this guide, we encourage educators to utilize the Teaching Tolerance’s Social Justice Standards. The Social Justice Standards are a set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains—identity, diversity, justice, and action (IDJA). The standards provide a common language and organizational structure: Teachers can use them to guide curriculum development, and administrators can use them to make schools more just, equitable and safe. The standards are leveled for every stage of K–12 education and include school-based scenarios to show what anti-bias attitudes and behavior may look like in the classroom. This tool can be accessed here.

Oklahoma State Academic Standards for High School Social Studies OKH.5.2 Examine multiple points of view regarding the evolution of race relations in Oklahoma, including: A. growth of AllBlack towns (1865-1920) B. passage of Senate Bill One establishing Jim Crow laws C. rise of the Klu Klux Klan D. emergence of “Black Wall Street” in the Greenwood District E. causes of the Tulsa Race Riot and its continued social and economic impact. F. the role labels play in understanding historic events, for example “riot” versus “massacre.” USH.4.1B Describe the rising racial tensions in American society including the resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan, increased lynchings, race riots as typified by the Tulsa Race Riot, the rise of Marcus Garvey and black nationalism, and the use of poll taxes and literacy tests to disenfranchise Blacks.

AP US Government & Politics MIG-2.0 Analyze causes of internal migration and patterns of settlement in what would become the United States and explain how migration has affected American life. NAT-4.0 Analyze relationships among different regional, social, ethnic, and racial groups, and explain how these groups’ experiences have related to U.S. national identity. CUL-4.0 Explain how different group identities, including racial, ethnic, class, and regional identities, have emerged and changed over time.


10 Photograph of John Wesley Williams and wife, Loula Cotten Williams, and their son, W. D. Williams, sitting in a 1911 Norwalk automobile. John was an engineer for Thompson Ice Cream Company. Loula was a teacher in Fisher. The Williams family owned the Dreamland Theatre, which was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

chapter one

The District

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chapter one


The District

Chapter 1 examines the history of Oklahoma prior to statehood. Specifically, this module sheds light on the impact of the Indian Removal Act on both Native Americans and African Americans, the development of All-Black Towns, and the establishment of Tulsa’s Greenwood District & Black Wall Street.

section one Before there was a State, there was the Territory

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government the power to exchange Native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi for land in the west, in the “Indian colonization zone” that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. (This “Indian territory” was located in present-day Oklahoma.)1 In the late 1800’s Indigenous peoples were removed from their traditional lands in the eastern United States and were forced by the government to relocate from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida to the government-established Indian Territory known as present day Oklahoma. In the winter of 1831, under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw became the first nation to be expelled from its land altogether. They made the journey to the Indian Territory on foot (some “bound in chains and marched double file,” one historian writes) and without any food, supplies or other help from

the government. Thousands of people died along the way. It was, one Choctaw leader told an Alabama newspaper, a “trail of tears and death.” Approximately 100,000 Native Americans were relocated between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government. By the 1880s, Indian Territory was a new home to a variety of tribes, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Cheyenne, Commanche and Apache. Legally, Indian Territory was to belong to the tribal nations forever, and trespass by settlers was forbidden. But over the next two centuries, Congress would violate every one of the 375 treaties it made with Indian tribes as well as numerous statutory acts, according to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.2

The Indian and Oklahoma Territories (1982)

On March 23, 1889, U.S. President Benjamin Harrison signed a proclamation opening the Indian Territory to settlement. The land run of 1889 began the legal opening of federally held land to white settlement. It also opened land to freed African Americans from the old South. Whites, Native Americans and Blacks all went after the opportunity to own land. Many African Americans migrated to Oklahoma, considering it a kind of “promise land.”3 This land run set the stage for the creation of the Oklahoma Territory in the Organic

1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

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Act of 1890. The Organic Act of 1890 created separate Oklahoma and Indian Territories, outlined the provisions of a territorial government, and set aside land in every township for public schools.4 One month later, would-be settlers lined up and waited for the sound of the cannon. They rushed onto the land by horseback, wagons and even on foot.5


The Louisiana Purchase (This “Indian territory” was located in present-day Oklahoma.)

Trail of tears and death


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“It was history made in an hour. Over the hills they came, out of the woods, and across the prairie. They came from Texas and Arkansas, Colorado and Missouri. They came on foot, by God, all the way from Iowa, Nebraska; they came in buggies and wagons and on horseback and mules, prairie schooners and oxcarts and carriages. It was like the Fourth of July or Judgment Day. The militia was lined up

along the boundaries. No one was allowed to set foot on the new lands until noon April 22, at the firing of the guns, twomillion acres of land were to be given away for the grabbing.” – Edna Ferber, Author


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Oklahoma, with its wide-open spaces, didn’t have the racial-bias trappings of the old South, and black freedmen were able to own land and carve out a living in the unsettled parts of Oklahoma. According to Hannibal B. Johnson, a Tulsa attorney who has written several books about Oklahoma’s Black history, “It was seen as an economic opportunity to acquire land, and it was seen as a way to get away from the kind of legislation that was being passed in the Deep South.”6 With the migration of Black men and women into the Indian Territory came a unique and distinct time in American History; the creation of All-Black Towns. All-Black towns grew after the Civil War when former slaves from the Native American Tribes settled together. They did this for both protection and economic security. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, together they created “cohesive, prosperous farming communities that could support businesses, schools, and

churches, eventually forming towns. Entrepreneurs in these communities started every imaginable kind of business, including newspapers, and advertised throughout the South for settlers.” “Nowhere else, neither in the Deep South nor in the Far West, did so many African American men and women come together to create, occupy, and govern their own communities.”7 African Americans would go to Oklahoma and Indian Territories for several reasons including escaping from discrimination and abuse, easier assess to financial assistance, independence and more work opportunities. Arthur Tolson, a pioneering historian of blacks in Oklahoma, asserts that many African Americans turned to “ideologies of economic advancement, self-help, and racial solidarity.”8

“Nowhere else, neither in the Deep South nor in the Far West, did so many African American men and women come together to create, occupy, and govern their own communities.”

All-Black Towns of Oklahoma Towns incorporated today Towns and settlements no longer inhabited or without local gov.

Early towns established before 1880

– Oklahoma Historical Society Photograph of E. P. McCabe

All-Black Towns of Oklahoma

The Honorable Edward P. McCabe, who is widely considered the father of the All-Black town movement saw the increase of Blacks involved in the land rush as an opportunity to build both “a haven from racism and as a potential source of personal acclaim and profit for himself. McCabe promised, through these agents, that new settlers would be coming to “the… paradise of Eden and the garden of the Gods,” and capitalized on the rapidly deteriorating conditions in the South arguing: “Here the Negro can rest from mob law, here he can be secure from every ill of the southern policies.”9 He also led the charge for Oklahoma to be admitted to the union as a “Black State.” While Oklahoma ultimately did not become a Black State, as many as fifty All-Black communities sprouted and flourished in the new territory. In 1907, Oklahoma became a new state.

6 7. 8. 9. 10.


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Today, only 13 historical All-Black towns still survive, but their legacy of economic and political freedom is well remembered. Towns still surviving today are Rentiesville, Summit, Taft, Tullahassee, Red Bird, Vernon, Boley, Brooksville, Clearview, Grayson, Langston, Lima and Tatums. A fourteenth town, IXL, is new, and was incorporated in 2001.10 Amongst the many achievements of these communities, the All-Black Towns of Oklahoma set the stage for the election of the 1st African American Women Mayor – Lelia Foley Davis (Taft, OK), national recognized Black educational institutions like Booker T. Washington High School, and the establishment of the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Anacker, C. (2007). Edward P. McCabe (1850-1920). image-,Edward%20P.,a%20clerk%20on%20Wall%20Street. article_8b10a8e2-6cb1-50a5-ba53-5050192a3b53.html


2. Who is Edward P. McCabe and how did he contribute to the growth of All-Black Towns in Oklahoma?

3. What factors contributed to the establishment and success of All-Black Towns in Oklahoma in the 1800s?

18 Tulsa Education Guide chapter one The District The interior of Emma Buckner’s sewing shop located at 1120 N. Hartford Avenue in Tulsa, OK. The back of the photograph contains a handwritten note in pencil stating, “Emma Buckner - Loss 700.00, 1120 Hartford. Taken just before riot. This complete outfit with every dress in it burned. Widow - 5 children under 16, 1 - 17.”

discussion questions All-Black Towns of Oklahoma

1. Identify 2-3 reasons African Americans decided to make Oklahoma their new home in the late 1800s.

A house in the Greenwood District located at 356 North Greenwood Avenue owned by Samuel & Lucy Mackley. The picture was taken before the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The house was destroyed during the massacre and was rebuilt six years later. There is no listing for 356 North Greenwood Avenue in the Tulsa city directory for 1921. See 1977.046.031 for a photograph of the reconstructed home.

section two


section three Greenwood & Black Wall Street

The Oklahoma Territory became the state of Oklahoma on November 16, 1907. The first legislative action, Senate Bill One,11 established segregation between African Americans and whites throughout the state. Oklahoma implemented a sweeping system of segregation, limiting where African Americans could live and shop in addition to how they traveled and existed in public spaces.

– Oklahoma State Representative Regina Goodwin

With few options outside of the Greenwood District and with entrepreneurs actively developing the district into a self-sustaining economic district, the area increased in both population and in the variety of goods and services available to its residents. By 1920 the population in the Greenwood District reached 11,000. Manual laborers and hospitality workers, who faced challenging work conditions but relatively livable wages, made up the majority and the foundation of the neighborhood. Within this thriving environment, a neighborhood born of both Jim Crow segregation and the booming wealth of Tulsa existed near downtown. The Greenwood District existed because of a smart business transaction on the part of Ottawa W. “O.W” Gurley, a wealthy and well connected African American landowner who came to Oklahoma because of the Land Run of 1889. After moving to Tulsa in 1906, he purchased 40 acres of land along the Frisco railroad tracks in north Tulsa. O. W Gurley is credited with having the first Black business in the Greenwood District in 1906.13 Black ownership was unheard of at that time.

Gurley started with a boarding house for African Americans. Then word began to spread about opportunities available to African Americans, and they flocked to the Greenwood District. “O.W. Gurley would actually loan money to people who wanted to start a business,” says Kristi Williams, vice chair of the African American Affairs Commission in Tulsa. “They actually had a system where someone who wanted to own a business could get help in doing that.” Other prominent Black entrepreneurs followed suit. Black businessman John B. “J.B.” Stradford, born into slavery in Kentucky, later becoming a lawyer and activist, moved to the Greenwood District in 1898. He built a 55-room luxury hotel bearing his name, the largest Black-owned hotel in the country. The Stradford Hotel at 301 N. Greenwood was his crown jewel. At the time, it was the largest Black-owned, Black-operated and Black-guest-only hotel in America. The structure housed 54 “modern living rooms,” a gambling hall, dining room, saloon and pool hall. Jazz from the Stradford Hotel and the Commodore Cotton Club across the street filled Greenwood District residents with the joy of the freedom to dance and play without repercussions.14 An outspoken businessman, Stradford believed that African Americans had a better chance of economic progress if they pooled their resources.

Because of Jim Crow laws and a desire to support their own community’s success, residents spent their money within the community, feeding the growth of the economy. A wide variety of professionals, entrepreneurs, and workers shared quality school and hospital systems, a public library, hotels, parks, and theaters in the Greenwood District. Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also called, was comparable to Beverly Hills, as many touted. At the height of its first golden age, the Greenwood District boasted over thriving 600 businesses and organizations, anchored by.15

Photograph of Peter A. Chappelle

The Greenwood District

“Black folks thrived in a way because we were concentrated in a particular area. There was a boatload of talent right in that area, so you saw pilots of planes, you saw hotel owners, newspaper editors… There was an intent to be well and to do well.”



12. 13. 14. 15.

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Larry O’Dell, “Senate Bill One,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, enc/entry.php?entry=SE017 District-destruction-tulsa


Booker T. Washington High School at the time of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

section three Greenwood & Black Wall Street

The Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma was modern, magnificent and unapologetically for and by African Americans. It grew into the most famous and prosperous African American urban community in the United States. As this community advanced and flourished between 1889 through 1921, it became a symbol of African American wealth, pride and unity.

In addition to attracting prominent African American professors, the Greenwood District touted six private airplanes and even a community bus system all owned and operated by African Americans. Detroit Avenue was the center of affluent homes. Doctors, lawyers, and top businessmen made this avenue a primer location in the District. Just forty years after the end of slavery, this community achieved social and economic status few African Americans in America have seen before. It was because of this that Booker T. Washington gave the Greenwood District its nickname: Black Wall Street.

The Greenwood District attracted nationally renowned African American leaders and activists such as Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois as well as prominent African American business-owners. John and Loula Williams, owned a candy shop and built the neighborhood’s Dreamland Theater, a 750-seat movie theater. Andrew Smitherman was a lawyer who also founded and ran the Tulsa Star, one of the area’s most prominent Blackowned newspapers. E.W. Woods, the first principal of the All-Black Booker T. Washington High School (1913), earned a reputation as “the quintessential Tulsan” for his preeminent leadership in the realm of public education.16


– W.E.B. Dubois

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants The word Sankofa comes from the Akan people of Ghana, which means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”.

Portrait of Ellis W. Woods, the first principal of Booker T. Washington High School. He lived at 531 North Detroit Avenue, and his home was destroyed during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

In addition, the people of the Greenwood District were multifaceted and had various skills such as the ability to build high quality, solid houses, some of which stand to this day. They also could grow and sell their own food because they knew how to farm and do agricultural work. There were landscapers, hairdressers, clothes washers and bakers. There veterans provided protection. They invested their own money and developed their own financial institutions.

“I have never seen a colored community so highly organized as that of Tulsa. The colored people of Tulsa have accumulated property, have established stores and business organizations and have made money in oil.”

“Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone, or been stripped of can be reclaimed, revived, preserved, and perpetuated.17

16. 17.

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section three Greenwood & Black Wall Street

Before many of the successful African Americans of today came to be, there were men and women of color who paved the way for them. They were community leaders, entrepreneurs, writers, entertainers, doctors and so much more. Today we all stand on the shoulders of giants that came before us, and African Americans are no exception.

Before there was influential community leader Herman J. Russell, one of the most successful businessmen in Atlanta, Georgia,

Before there was R. Donohue Peeples, owner of the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza, the second largest hotel on South Beach in Miami, Florida,

→ there was O. W. Gurley, also a very successful businessman and a community leader of Tulsa in 1921. Gurley was considered a pioneer who first opened a grocery store in 1905 to service the African American community. Gurley then bought tracts of undeveloped land and constructed homes for sale and rent to African Americans migrating to Tulsa from the Deep South. He ultimately built one of the finest hotels in the city. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois stayed at his hotel when he visited there in 1921.18

→ there was John B. Stradford, who built the luxurious 54-room Stradford Hotel, considered at the time, the finest African American owned hotel in the country. Stradford also owned 15 rental houses and an apartment building. He believed that if African Americans pooled their resources and spent within their community, they could become self-sufficient and thus achieve some independence. Stradford’s strategy was so successful that he became the richest African American man in Tulsa.19

Before there was the extraordinarily successful couple, Alex and Feysen Lodde, owners of the nation’s largest transportation contracting firm, → there was John and Loula Williams. The Williamses were early pioneers in the Greenwood District business community. John Williams was an exceptionally skilled mechanic and white customers brought their vehicles to his shop to be serviced. From the profits made at the auto shop, the couple constructed a threestory building with a popular confectionery on the street level, residential quarters on the second floor, and rented the third floor to attorneys. The Williams Confectionery became the most popular hang out for young people, and it was believed there were more proposals for marriage that happened at the popular soda fountain than any other place in the city. Right next to the confectionery they built the eight hundred seat Dreamland Motion Picture Theater.20

Before there was Dr. Ben Carson

Before there was John Sengstacke

→ there was Dr. Andrew Jackson, recognized as the finest and most competent African American surgeon in the country. A graduate of MeHarry Medical School, he was the son of a former slave who believed that his son’s accomplishments were proof that the race had progressed and was on the right track to equality.21

→ there was Andrew “A.J.” Smitherman, lawyer and founder of the local AfricanAmerican newspaper Tulsa Star. Smitherman advocated “self help” and “social uplift” for African American Oklahomans. A.J. Smitherman was a leading African American political figure in the American West. Smitherman used the Tulsa Star to spread his staunch Democratic ideals to African American subscribers in an era when Republicans dominated the African American landscape. The owner also preached selfreliance and militant action to protect against the tide of racial violence occurring around the country at the time.22

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Before there was Lisa Price, the founder of Carol’s Daughter, a $50 million beauty business, for more than twenty years, → there was Mabel Little, owner of Little Rose Beauty Salon, located right in the heart of the business district in Greenwood District. Just as Lisa Price started out with a meager amount of investment money, so did Mabel. When she left Boley, Oklahoma for Tulsa, she had a total of one dollar and fifty cents in her pocket. For the first few years, Mabel cleaned motel rooms and saved her money. By 1915, she started washing, straightening and waving hair, a skill she learned from her aunt. Soon, her shop was filled with customers, especially on Thursdays, because that night was “Maid’s Night Out” in the Greenwood District. All the young ladies who worked in white homes during the week, looked forward to Thursday night when they could strut their stuff down Greenwood District Avenue. Mabel made it much easier for them when they climbed into her chair to get her magic touch.23 Shabazz, A. (2009, May 09). Andrew J. Smitherman (1883-1961). https://www.blackpast. org/african-american-history/smitherman-andrew-j-1883-1961/


section three

1. Based on the text and your prior knowledge, how would you describe the Greenwood District in the early 1900s? 2. What was O.W Gurley’s vision for African Americans? How did he use his resources to create opportunities for others? 3. How did Senate Bill One impact the growth and success of All-Black Towns in Oklahoma?


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4. What drove the economic success and overall development of the Greenwood District? 5. Why did Booker T. Washington give the Greenwood District the nickname, Black Wall Street? 6.What racial tensions existed during this time period? A house in Greenwood District located at 356 North Greenwood Avenue owned by Samuel & Lucy Mackley.

discussion questions

Greenwood & Black Wall Street


section three

recommended student tasks

Greenwood & Black Wall Street

Task 1: After completing the chapter, utilize a KLW Chart to capture your thinking.

What did you know? About the Greenwood District prior to this reading:

What else do you want to know? List any wonderings, questions or statements:


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chapter one The District

What did you learn? Identify 5-7 of your key takeaways:

Task 2: Reflect on what you have seen, heard, and learned in Chapter 1. Use the chart below to capture your thoughts. Before this reading I thought…

Now I understand…

My new learning is making me think about...

The knowledge I have gained from this reading has prepared me to...


30 An armed man posing for the camera in front of the Dreamland Theater during the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921. He holds a rilfe or shotgun in each hand and smokes a cigar.

chapter two

The Massacre

Tulsa Education Guide



chapter two

The Massacre

Chapter 2 examines the causes and catalysts for the Tulsa Race Massacre. In addition, this chapter discusses the Massacre itself and its impact on not only those who experienced it, but African Americans and other marginalized groups around the country.

section one May 31th, 1921

On May 30, 1921, a young Black teenager named Dick Rowland entered an elevator at the Drexel Building, an office building on South Main Street in Tulsa, OK. Soon after that, a young white elevator operator, Sarah Page, screamed; Rowland fled the scene. The police were called, and the next morning they arrested Rowland.1

By that time, rumors of what supposedly happened on the elevator circulated through the city’s white community. A front-page story in the local white newspaper, The Tulsa Tribune, that afternoon reported that police had arrested Rowland for sexually assaulting Page.2 Hundreds of white Tulsans gathered outside of the Tulsa County Courthouse as the afternoon turned into evening. They sent in a group of men demanding the deputies hand Rowland over. Sheriff Willard McCullough refused, and his men barricaded the top floor to protect the Black teenager. The sheriff had taken measures to prevent anyone from taking custody of Rowland. At 9 p.m., an armed group of 25 Black men, many of whom were recent World War I veterans, came to the courthouse to offer their assistance in protecting Rowland. The Sheriff declined their help and assured the men that the situation remained under control. The group returned to the Greenwood District. The arrival of the men angered the white mob which continued


The Invasion

The Crowd Gathers

The African American men engaged in a fighting retreat back to the Greenwood District as armed whites attacked them. The local police force expanded as the chief deputized 500 white men and boys. Those who did Shortly after 10 p.m. a group of 75 not have weapons went to local pawn African American men returned to the courthouse and were once again shops, hardware stores, and sporting goods stores, breaking in and stealing told to leave. As they departed in a single-file line, a white man attempted guns. The targets of the mob evolved from the original armed group to disarm one of the African to any African American person. American men. The man resisted. In Indiscriminate killing began. As the scuffle, the weapon discharged. both sides reached Greenwood, Both sides exchanged fire. deadly battles erupted, particularly along the Frisco railroad tracks. In other parts of Greenwood, whites drove into the neighborhood and killed residents from their cars. Some whites began setting fires to property in Greenwood at around 1 a.m. white rioters prevented the fire department from extinguishing the flames. to grow in size, now around 2,000 people. The sheriff took additional precautions and pleaded with the crowd to disperse.

As dawn approached, approximately 10,000 whites hovered around the edges of the Greenwood District. Many African Americans remained in their homes, hoping to avoid the conflict and protect their families and property. White men had hauled a machine gun to the top of a grain elevator. At 5:08 a.m., a signal

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pierced the air. In response to the signal, the machine gunners began firing into the Greenwood District. The rest of the mob began marching and driving into the neighborhood. Moving from house to house, white rioters broke into homes and businesses and forced the occupants out for internment. Then, they looted the properties. “As the whites moved north, they set fire to practically every building in the African American community, including a dozen churches, five hotels, 31 restaurants, four drug stores, eight doctor’s offices, more than two dozen grocery stores, and the Black public library. More than a thousand homes were torched, the fires becoming so hot that nearby trees and outbuildings also burst into flames.”3 Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, p. 198


African Americans detained during the Tulsa Race Massacre, 1921. The photo shows a small truck loaded with people. A woman sits with her legs dangling from the back of the truck. An armed man rides on the running board of the automobile.


May 31th, 1921

Tulsa Education Guide chapter two The Massacre

A group of detained African Americans walking down the street during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. A policeman is visible at the far left

A group of armed men standing at the railroad tracks on Greenwood Avenue watching smoke rise from a burning building during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

a photographic account section one

A group being led to the Convention Hall during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.


section one

discussion questions

Two men being led into Convention Hall located at 101 West Brady Street for internment during the Tulsa Race Massacre on June 1, 1921.

May 31th, 1921

A group of African American men and women standing in the middle of a dirt road, most likely at a checkpoint during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Several Caucasian men stand to the right holding rifles or shotguns. Two of the cars are parked in the middle of the road. Another car is parked to the side of the road, and an African American man is pouring water into the car’s radiator.


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The remains of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church located at 419 North Elgin Avenue following the destruction of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The back of the photograph contains a handwritten notation in ink stating, “The Mt. Zion Baptist Church-N. Elgin St. Rev. R. A. Whitaker Pastor. Photo by Hooker.”

section one

a photographic account

May 31th, 1921

The destroyed Dreamland Theatre, located at 127 North Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa, OK, following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. John Wesley Williams and wife, Loula Cotten Williams, owned and operated the theater.


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The burning of the Greenwood District during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.


section two Causes and Catalysts

Local Factors There are several local factors that served as catalysts for the Tulsa Massacre including the impact of oil on the region, the way in which African Americans were portrayed in the media, and the approach of local law enforcement when it came to protecting African Americans and their property. This section seeks to investigate these catalysts, and how they contributed to the massacre.

“The key issue seemed to be control over the oil boom across Oklahoma. The white power structure did not want this oil boom being controlled by African Americans or Native Americans.” – Robin Walker,

The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street


“Oil Capital of the World” Tulsa’s long history as an important town and later city in Oklahoma began with the removal of the Five Tribes in the 1830s. The town grew slowly, with a rail line arriving in the 1880s. At the dawn of the 20th century, the discovery of huge oil fields nearby convinced city leaders to market Tulsa as a convenient and enjoyable place to conduct the business and financial sides of the oil industry. With the discovery of oil in 1901, Tulsa changed from a cow-town to a boomtown.4 People of all types and backgrounds began to flood the city of Tulsa, bringing along their hopes, dreams, and families to settle into their new lives in the new state. Tulsa grew rapidly because of the oil boom, and soon after, new neighborhoods were established. Several oil industry companies agreed and established their headquarters there. This spurred economic development in the city as executives built further accommodations for the industry and funded building construction, oil infrastructure, and a growing hospitality industry. By 1920, Tulsa served as the base for over 400 petroleum companies.


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More oil discoveries in subsequent years would later lead to Tulsa’s golden age of the 1920s and earning the nickname “Oil Capital of the World.” Many early oil companies chose Tulsa for their home base. While whites were the primary beneficiaries of the oil boom, African Americans in the segregated district of the Greenwood District also benefited, to the dismay of their white neighbors. This led to racial bias, that was expressed in several ways, including the types of articles written by white-owned newspapers about African Americans.


section two Causes and Catalysts

Newspaper Coverage of African Americans The major newspapers in Tulsa, The Tulsa World and The Tulsa Tribune, did not report much on the African American community. When they did, the papers used prejudicial stereotypes rather than an accurate presentation. When reports included African Americans, the papers attempted comedy through mockery or presented African Americans as the major criminals in the city. When covering the African American community, these papers focused almost exclusively on crimes while offering limited coverage of white crime. If reports included whites participating in crime, the papers frequently found a way to blame African Americans, as the papers asserted they controlled white opportunities for gambling, drinking, and prostitution. The local African American paper, The Tulsa Star, observed this bias in reporting and declared to its readers: “The World-Sun has at least 500 subscribers among the Negroes of this city, which amounts to $3,900.00 per year. Quite a fat sum to pay to be insulted and outraged at frequent intervals, eh?...A paper which will not publish their social news, but take a keen delight in publishing any article calculated to discredit the Negro in any way and to stir up prejudice against him”


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This media bias exposed whites in Tulsa to the consistent message that African Americans were to blame for crime, and impacted the way the city leaders and residents made decisions, and can be seen as a contributing factor to the Tulsa Massacre. Dick Rowland’s arrest occurred after the Tulsa World, the morning newspaper, released their day’s edition. Then the Tulsa Tribune, the afternoon paper, learned of the incident. One of the central controversies in the story of the Tulsa Massacre lay in what the Tribune did with this story. Many Tulsans reported the Tribune contained two articles on Rowland. One, a front page story reported that “Diamond Dick” Rowland assaulted a “17-year-old white elevator girl” and that the police arrested him. The other piece on the editorial page, “To Lynch a Negro Tonight,” has been never been verified because no complete copy of this issue has ever been located. Throughout the afternoon, the newsboys sold their papers by shouting, “A Negro assaults a white girl!” Throughout the white community in Tulsa, rumors of a plan to lynch Rowland spread. This would impact the way in which law enforcement engaged with the increasing growing population of white Tulsans, and the African Americans in the neighboring Greenwood District.

chapter two The Massacre

Local Law Enforcement The law enforcement’s initial response may not be a direct cause of the massacre, but their actions once the violence began made the situation more deadly. The local National Guard focused their efforts on arresting and interning all African Americans that they could locate. This left Greenwood vulnerable with few to defend it. At certain points in the hours-long conflict, the National Guard also shot at African American residents in coordination with other attackers.


section three Causes and Catalysts

KKK Membership 1920-1929 3 million — 8 million in new recruits (US Population apprx 100 million)

National Factors National factors fueled and, in many cases, served as a catalyst for the local factors that contributed to the Tulsa Massacre. There are several national factors that impacted the events of May 31, 1921, including but not limited to the Red Summer of 1919, lynching practices taking place all over the country, white supremacy, segregation laws, the Great Migration and urbanization.

Segregation Jim Crow segregation laws developed from the ideas of white supremacy. At the same time, segregation laws hid African Americans from the daily lives of whites in the same town. Businesses either refused to serve African Americans or offered services unequally. African Americans purchasing food at a diner were not allowed to eat on the premises with whites. In retail stores, clerks interrupted their assistance to African American customers when white customers entered. Entire cities were segregated. Entrances, waiting rooms, and water fountains were segregated. Transportation such as buses or trains required Africans Americans to sit in separate cars or sit behind whites and be willing to give up their seat if it became crowded. Ambulances refused to carry African Americans and hospitals were white only. Most parks were for the exclusive use of whites. African Americans were prevented from serving on juries and they were forced to use separate bibles when testifying in court. Without contact and first-hand knowledge, many whites simply accepted the racist presentation of African Americans: in magazines, radio programs, minstrel shows, newspapers, and, significantly, the

White Supremacy new format of movies. For many African Americans, presenting as compliant in the presence of whites became a survival strategy. African Americans who did not act the way whites expected them could be in danger of losing their jobs or facing physical attack. The Jim Crow laws of the South would eventually lead to migration of African Americans seeking opportunity, and serve as a major contributing factor in the establishment of All-Black towns and neighborhoods.

Even after the horrors of World War I, many white Americans continued to believe and enforce the ideas of white superiority. White political leaders embraced this belief system and used their institutional power to further those beliefs. While many whites directed prejudice, discrimination, and violence toward other groups such as Mexican and Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s, the racism of many white Americans remained focused on African Americans. The second Ku Klux Klan organized in 1915 with white supremacy as one of their primary beliefs. This second generation of the Klan was not only anti-Black but also took a stand against Roman Catholics, Jews, foreigners and organized labor.5 During the 1920s, at its membership peak, the Klan successfully enrolled between 3 and 8 million members (out of a US population of approximately 100 million) who lived not just in the South, but the entire country.6 Oklahoma had one of the largest populations of Klanman in the entire nation. 95,000 white men were initiated into the Klan between 1915-1944.7 As president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson used his executive power to segregate Washington,

5. 6. 7.


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chapter two The Massacre

D.C. and limit the already sparse employment of African Americans in the federal government. Prior to this, the district had remained desegregated since the Civil War. White communities expressed fear and resentment, sometimes with violence, against African American soldiers returning from World War I, especially if they were in uniform. Lynching, especially of African Americans in the South, occurred regularly, and the numbers attacked increased. The eugenics movement provided a scientific-sounding justification for these actions until it fell out of favor following World War II.


section three Causes and Catalysts

White lynchings of Black Men & Women 1918 129 persons in the Midwest 9 persons in New England 2,915 persons in the South & Border South by 1930

Lynching During the late 19th and early 20th century, a form of community violence called lynching served as a tactic to enforce Jim Crow segregation and inequality. Lynching is the killing of a person by a mob without any legal trial. In many places, communities lynched individuals for alleged crimes and union organizing. In the South, communities increasingly used lynching as a way to instill terror in the African American community. Nationally, lynching grew each year from 1866 through the 1880s, peaked in 1892. By 1900 the punishment was reserved almost exclusively for blacks. From 1889 through 1918 mobs lynched 129 persons in the Midwest, nine in New England, and 2,915 in the South and Border South. By 1930 the nation reached a total of 3,587.8

During the early 1900s there were almost no white lynchings. A frequent “reason” for lynching an African American man was sexual contact with a white woman. This included allegations of rape, sexual assault, and consensual relationships. For African Americans in Oklahoma, it was understood that white communities practiced lynching, and the likelihood of mob violence increased dramatically if an allegation of sexual contact with a white woman occurred.9

In Oklahoma lynching generally followed the national trend. Surveys by the Tuskegee Institute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and various scholars identify approximately 147 recorded lynching deaths from 1885 to 1930 (dozens more probably went unrecorded). These numbered 77 white, 50 Black, 14 American Indian, 1 Chinese, and 5 of unknown race. In Oklahoma, hanging was the most common form; with a few exceptions, burning was not used.


3,587persons across The United States

Six million African Americans moved permanently away from the South beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the 1970s

Red Summer of 1919

Great Migration

Rapid Urbanization

Between April and November of 1919, there would be approximately 25 riots and instances of mob violence, 97 recorded lynchings, and a three-day long massacre in Elaine, Arkansas during which over 200 Black men, women, and children were killed after Black sharecroppers tried to organize for better working conditions.10 The Klu Klux Klan, which had been largely shut down by the government after the Civil War, experienced a resurgence in popularity and began carrying out dozens of lynchings across the South. Klan membership exceeded 4 million people nationwide.11 During the Red Summer, massive anxiety became mass violence in states all over the country. As whites continued to see Greenwood grow and prosper, anxiety grew in Tulsa as well.

African Americans living in the Once the environment integrated, South faced limits in all aspects of the whites of the area perceived their lives. They confronted the their new neighbors negatively, brutality of segregation and the which reinforced stereotypes and violence that supported it. They a sense of superiority. Many whites experienced a lack of opportunity viewed newly arrived African caused by the sharecropping system Americans as competitors for jobs, and the refusal of other industries housing, and resources, which to hire African Americans. The created even more racial tension. widespread infestation of boll weevils that ruined cotton crops throughout the region attacked both white and African American farmers. These conditions resulted in compelling reasons to leave the South if a family could save up enough money to do so. As the first migrants gained a foothold outside the South, the support they could offer convinced others to make the journey. Six million African Americans moved permanently away from the South beginning in the 1890s and continuing into the 1970s.12

Some of those whites witnessing the Great Migration were migrants as well. Increasingly, the best opportunity existed in the cities. War-related jobs and the agricultural depression after the war led to the movement of people from all backgrounds to cities in the North and the Midwest, like Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Tulsa. This process could be extremely disorienting, especially as the country underwent several abrupt cultural transformations at the same time, including an increase in secularism, the changes in how women lived, the growth of illegal drinking establishments, and the automobile’s transformation of society. Just as in Tulsa, the cities’ populations skyrocketed in very short periods. This created challenges to fulfill the food, housing, employment, and safety needs of new residents.

Oklahoma’s initial appeal to African Americans came in the early 1900s because of their eligibility to potentially gain a homestead in the land runs. The existence of many All-Black towns convinced some to come to Oklahoma and the oil boom brought others. For many whites in places that lacked an African American presence, racist assumptions prevailed.

8. 9. 10. 11. 12.

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section three

discussion questions

Causes and Catalysts

1.What has been the impact of the Great Migration and Urbanization on communities of color? 2.What issues do we as Americans still need to address in relation to race and relation tensions in our country? 3.Why would the Tulsa Massacre be considered one of the “darkest chapters of Tulsa and America’s History”?


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chapter two The Massacre

4.What do you think caused people in the Greenwood District to bring awareness to the Tulsa Massacre? 5.Why is it important that we discuss it and learn from it now? 6.How has learning about the Tulsa Massacre changed or contributed to your understanding of race relations and racial tension in the United States?


section three


recommended student tasks

Causes and Catalysts


Task 1: Have students read the articles objectively and answer the following questions in complete sentences. What is different about the accounts in each paper?

What are the similarities of the newspaper articles?

Why do you think there are differences?

Do you think these are reliable sources? Why or why not?

Task 2: Look at photos from the Oklahoma Historical Society Photograph Archives: (search Tulsa Race Massacre) How would you respond in this situation?

What reason(s) would you have to stay in Greenwood/North Tulsa after a massacre?

How would you heal and move forward?

Have students explore the following newspaper articles from June 1921. Note: Choose two from Oklahoma and one from the Library of Congress. (This can also be done as a class, group, or as an individual student activity.) → State Sentinel, Stigler, OK

→ The Daily Ardmoreite, Ardmore, OK

→ The Wapanucka Press, Wapanucka, OK

→ The Black Dispatch, Oklahoma City

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→ The following articles from around the country from Chronicling America: Library of Congress


section three

recommended student tasks

Causes and Catalysts

Task 3: Reflect on what you have seen, heard, and learned in Chapter 2. Use the chart below to capture your thoughts. How would you respond in this situation?

What reason(s) would you have to stay in Greenwood/North Tulsa after a massacre?

Author’s Choice: Continued Reading 1. Krehbiel, R (2021). Tulsa, 1921: Reporting a Massacre. University of Oklahoma Press. 2. Madigan, T. (2016). The Murning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Middletown, DE 3. Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. (2001). Tulsa Race Riot: A report. Oklahoma City, OK.: The Commission. 4. Parrish, M. E. J. (1922). Events of the Tulsa Disaster. 5. Weatherford, C. B., & Cooper, F. (2021). Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre.

How would you heal and move forward?


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A young boy standing near three tents that the American Red Cross erected for displaced African Americans following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The background shows a water tower on Standpipe Hill.

chapter three

The Rebirth



The Rebirth

Chapter 3 examines the aftermath of the Tulsa Massacre and the mental and physical rebuilding that has taken place in the decades that followed. In addition, this chapter discusses current efforts to rewrite the false narrative created around the Tulsa Race Massacre, as well as the history and legacy of the Greenwood District.

The Aftermath Two photographs of two types of Red Cross tents constructed for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The tents were constructed of wooden planks and canvas and were located on East Independence Street.


chapter three

section one

By the time martial law was declared in Tulsa County at 11:29 a.m. on June 1, 1921, the massacre had nearly run its course. Scattered bands of white rioters, some of whom had been awake for more than 24 hours straight, continued to loot and burn, but most had already gone home.1 The damage and destruction, fueled by hatred, had almost completely eradicated the Greenwood District.

The Internment By the end of the day, the internment camps held 6,000 African American residents. The next day, authorities moved them to the fairgrounds. The National Guard forced these prisoners, both men and women, to labor. The mayor threatened to arrest anyone refusing work for vagrancy. Authorities required them to clean up the destruction caused by the white rioters. The length of stay varied for most of those imprisoned. Release depended on white employers vouching for their African American workers. After that the city issued passes, called green cards, for them to carry to show their employment. By the middle of June, all were released from the camps.

The (False) Uprising Narrative Within a week the leaders of the major institutions in Tulsa began promoting a narrative that blamed the residents of Greenwood for the violence. The Tulsa Tribune, the state’s attorney general, many ministers, and the mayor advanced this argument. The attorney general, in a speech in Tulsa on June 17, said:

Land Issues The lead attorney for the state used her power to give immunity to any whites who looted homes or murdered African Americans. This remained the dominant narrative until attention to the massacre began to fade outside the African American community in Oklahoma.

“The cause of this riot was not Tulsa. It might have happened anywhere for the Negro is not the same man he was thirty years ago when he was content to plod along his own road accepting the white man as his benefactor. But the years have passed and the Negro has been educated and the race papers have spread the thought of race equality.”

The grand jury convened to investigate, followed the attorney general’s lead and concluded in its report: “The crowd assembled about the courthouse being purely spectators and curiosity seekers… There was no mob spirit among the whites, no talk of lynching and no arms. The assembly was quiet until the arrival of armed negroes, which precipitated and was the direct cause of the riot.”


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In early June of that same year, some city officials promised to rebuild and began setting up structures to assist the residents of the Greenwood District. While the city directed donations from across the country to the relief efforts of the Red Cross, city officials actively refused support for reconstruction from other cities, announcing that restoring the city was strictly a “Tulsa affair,” and the residents of Tulsa would take care of it. By June 3, a trade organization called the Real Estate Exchange floated the idea of not rebuilding, but instead rezoning the neighborhood for industrial purposes. Realtors attempted to get African American landowners to sell but wanted the land at discounted rates. Maurice Willows used his influence to convince African American property owners to keep their land.


section one The Aftermath

The city responded by applying a fire code to the area that would make rebuilding too expensive for most individual property owners. Well known attorney and activist, B. C. Franklin, along with I. H. Spears and T. O. Chapelle encouraged residents to start the rebuilding process even though they faced arrest by doing so. Their lawyers vowed to secure the release of anyone arrested for rebuilding.

They filed a suit against the city for taking property without due process. They won the lawsuit, providing the neighborhood a chance to survive. Another challenge facing residents in their attempt to rebuild lay in the insurance companies’ refusal to pay on claims for damages related to the massacre. Insurance policies contained exemptions from paying for damages related to riots. The residents of the Greenwood District rebuilt the neighborhood with very little outside investment or support. About 10,000 African Americans were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $32.25 million in 2019 dollars). Their property was never recovered nor were they compensated for it. Many survivors left Tulsa, while Black and white residents who stayed in the city were silent for decades about the terror, violence, and losses of the event. The massacre was largely omitted from local, state, and national histories.”4

The Price of the Damage $1.5 million $750,000 Personal Property

$32.25 million in 2019 dollars


– Deborah Hunter,

a social worker for Tulsa’s library system

2. 3. 4.


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Real Estate

Greenwood Avenue at Archer Street in Tulsa, OK, following the reconstruction of the Greenwood District after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Maurice Willows was the first Red Cross representative sent to Tulsa to investigate the event. Witnessing the destruction and need for medical aid and assistance, Willows called Red Cross Headquarters in Washington D.C., urging that the event be classified as a natural disaster. Within 24 hours of his call, the Red Cross was dispatched to provide relief to the black community and set up a makeshift hospital and school. Willows developed a more permanent housing plan for those who had been made homeless. What’s more, he secured $100,000 in funding to mount a sustained relief effort. Willows’ leadership secured resources and aid for those affected by the riot, setting a precedent for future humanitarian efforts. The Red Cross was the only organization that provided aid to the victims of the Tulsa Massacre.2

“I was just stunned. How could no one have told me about this? I was really just devastated to know that that had happened because there were no signs of it when I was growing up. Everything had been built back, and nobody talked about it.”

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section two

A temporary law office set up in a tent following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Pictured are attorneys Isaiah H. Spears and Buck Colbert Franklin with their secretary, Effie Thompson.

Greenwood Rising

The American Red Cross Disaster Relief Headquarters following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

After the destruction of the Greenwood District, the city of Tulsa denied aid to the survivors of the massacre. However, the African American businessmen and residents of the Greenwood District took it upon themselves to rebuild their community, using their own resources and help sent from across the United States. The Greenwood District was rebuilt within five years.6 By the summer of 1922, more than 80 businesses were again up and running.7 This African American community not only thrived in an era of harsh “Jim Crow” and oppression, but when the bigotry of the majority destroyed their healthy community, the residents worked together and rebuilt. Not only did they rebuild, they again successfully ran their businesses, schooled their children, and worshiped at their magnificent churches in the shadow of a growing Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma and continuing legal racial separatism for more than forty years.8

“To turn that tragedy into triumph, we have to tell the story that’s uncomfortable for some but important for the rest of us. And we have to tell it now.”

In the decades that followed, the rebuilding of the Greenwood District was slow and quiet. There were no public ceremonies, memorials for the dead or any efforts to commemorate the events of May 31-June 1, 1921.8 40 years after the massacre the Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma and the nation experienced the Civil Rights movement that would eventually lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which among many things, dissolved the systems and structures that created the Greenwood District in the first place. As African Americans began to use businesses and accommodations throughout Tulsa and move throughout the city, the Greenwood District’s businesses began to decline.


– Kevin Matthews,

an Oklahoma state senator and North Tulsa native

5. 6. 7.


8. 9.

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chapter three The Rebirth Mills, D. (2016, April 16). Deep Greenwood (Tulsa), Oklahoma (1906- ). BlackPast. org. “Tulsa Race Riot Report,” p. 149.


section three Greenwood Descendents

Still the legacy of those who stayed and contributed to the rebuilding of the Greenwood District are not forgotten. The legacy of this community lives on not only through the perseverance, resilience and hope embedded in the foundation of this community prior to the massacre, but through stories and memories passed down to their descendants.

Descendants like Lea Michelle Cash, whose grandfather, Jack Scott, was one of the many brave Black men who stood on Tulsa’s courthouse stairs to protect a young Black male from being lynched. Jack Scott stayed in Tulsa after the massacre and raised his children there. Lea Michelle Cash, his granddaughter, is currently the President and CEO of The Brightest Star, Inc. which is an organization focused on growing and supporting youth through social and emotional learning and character building to inspire and improve academic success in challenging at-risk elementary school children.10


Tulsa Education Guide

Resilient and persistent individuals like Dwight Eaton, a descendant of the Tulsa Massacre and grandson of Joseph Eaton. Dwight Eaton describes his grandfather as a softspoken man who liked to chew on cigars, and spent his early teenage years working in a factory and cutting hair on the side.12 After the massacre, Joseph Eaton decided to stay in Tulsa and rebuild. Dwight Eaton believes his entrepreneurial spirit was inherited from his forefathers. “Contrary to popular belief, Greenwood did rebuild after the massacre,” Mr. Eaton said. “It rebuilt to a certain degree of prominence maybe equal to or slightly more than what it was.” Today, the barbershop Dwight Eaton’s grandfather built has been preserved and his brother, Bobby Eaton Jr., runs a radio station out of the same building. Dwight Eaton opened a coffee shop, the Black Wall Street Liquid Lounge.

chapter three The Rebirth

“We’re just taking that model of success that was in place from the 1900’s and using the same principles to attempt to recreate the district. There’s hope, but there’s a lot of work to be done.” 11

– Dwight Eaton

While the Greenwood District has changed over time, the history of this community will be forever memorialized in the hearts and minds of those who live in it, are descendants of it, or have simply learned from the story of it. The Greenwood District embodies the virtues of persistence and commitment; virtues that have kept its vision alive and well. “As more people are awakening to the story of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and America’s history of systemic racial injustice and inequity, there is a mass movement of action happening around us.”

Brenda Alford is a descendant of the Tulsa Massacre and niece of Dr. Cecelia Nails Palmer, the first African American faculty member at The University of Tulsa. Brenda Alford, whose grandparents, James and Vasinora Nails, survived the massacre but lost their businesses, went most of her life not knowing what happened in the Greenwood District. Before the massacre, her grandparents owned a shoe shop, as well as a record store, dance pavilion and community skating rink. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she describes her childhood in Greenwood as a wonderful community of loving, passionate people who embraced and encouraged each other to do their best. Despite her family’s tragic history, Brenda did not learn of the massacre until 2003 when she received a letter notifying her of her family’s history. From then, she has dedicated her time to discovering her family’s history and passing down the knowledge to future generations.

While the Greenwood District has changed over time, the history of this community will be forever memorialized in the hearts and minds of those who live in it, are descendants of it, or have simply learned from the story of it. The Greenwood District embodies the virtues of persistence and commitment; virtues that have kept its vision alive and well. “As more people are awakening to the story of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and America’s history of systemic racial injustice and inequity, there is a mass movement of action happening around us.”14

“I am grateful I am here, that I can be a part of it, and I am grateful to them and all that they have done, in surviving that horrible event,” 13

In celebration of the history, resistance and tenacity of the Greenwood Community, a stateof-the-art history center named Greenwood Rising has been created. Located at the heart of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, Greenwood Rising will serve as an educational, economic empowerment and art hub for the nation and the world.

– Brenda Alford

10. 11. 12. 13. 14. article_10068ada-5a92-11eb-a966-f351aaf1be82.html


section three


recommended student tasks

Greenwood Descendents


Task 1: Watch Clip - Senator Lankford Speaks about the Tulsa Race Massacre on the Senate Floor (Total Time: 9:25 – 15:48)

Task 2: Reflect on what you have seen, heard, and learned in Chapter 3. Use the chart below to capture your thoughts.

Has the Greenwood community healed?

If not, what is keeping the healing process from taking place?

Before this document I thought…

Now I understand…

If so, in what ways?

What role does the U.S Government have in supporting the healing process of the Greenwood community?

My new learning is making me think about...

The knowledge I have gained from this reading has prepared me to...

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Author’s Choice: Continued Reading

A temporary hospital ward in the Maurice Willows Hospital set up by the American Red Cross following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

1. Brophy, A. L., & Kennedy, R. (2003). Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 - Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation. Cary: Oxford University Press.


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2. Hirsch, J. S. (2021). Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race Massacre and Its Legacy. 3. Johnson, H. B. (2020). Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples with Its Historical Racial Trauma. 4. Johnson, H. B. (2014). Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District. 5. Madigan, T. (2016). The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Middletown, DE


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