Tulsa Race Riot #2

Henry Mueting

African American Studies 101

December 10th 2015

Blog Assignment #2

 

My cultural artifact is a picture of the aftermath Tulsa Oklahoma race riot of 1921. This catastrophic event all started when a young black man named Dick Rowland was riding in an elevator with a white woman named Sara Page. She screamed for an unknown reason, then Dick Rowland was seen running from the building. The details of what actually happened are not found. The stories very greatly but she did not press charges. An investigation ensued and he was arrested the next day and held at the courthouse. When news papers got word of a black man possibly assaulting a white girl they printed in the headlines “To Lynch Negro Tonight”. A huge mob of two thousand angry white protestors began to accumulate at the court house. Then lots of people from the African American community became worried for the safety of Dick Rowland and went to the courthouse to protect him. The local sheriff guaranteed protection of him. As the lynch mob grew, so did the group of African Americans to protect them. At this point both sides were armed. Then a warning shot was fired and mistook for a real threat and a battle ensued. Martial law was in full effect and whites began shooting, killing and setting fires. The National guard was called and they began detaining blacks and not whites. Thirty-five city blocks were in ruins. Three hundred people lost their lives. The greenwood district and the surrounding neighborhood businesses were lost which was known as “Black Wall Street” because it was one of the wealthiest African American neighborhoods post world war one (Tulsa Historical Society Museum).

This was interesting to me because of the high tension that existed between whites and blacks. Something as small as this incident can trigger such a horrific scene. The hypocrisy in the story was also interesting while the white lynch mob was brewing in front of the courthouse they identified the group of African Americans keeping them from entering the courthouse was as a “negro uprising”. When it seems so clear that the white lynch mob was the real uprising and trying to take the law into their own hands. The intense hate white people felt is a fabricated sensation by which the white society wanted in order to keep African Americans as sub human. This is to further keep the “possessive investment of whiteness” (Pittman 2015) alive. The citizens of the Greenwood District filed lawsuits against the state of Oklahoma hundreds of times and never won. They also filed law suits against the insurance companies and the Sinclair oil company that provided fuel for the airplanes that also attacked the Greenwood District and they have never won a case. The Justice system failed to do the right thing (Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot).

The producer of this image was Alvin C. Krupnick. He was from St. Louis Missouri. One of five children. His brother and himself were photographers. Lots of his photos were published in newspapers and are now in public domain. There are still photos by him that are not in public domain but will be January 1st 2023. He lived in Tulsa Oklahoma with is wife and three kids (Marc Carlson).

This was taken in 1921 in the aftermath of the riots. This time period is when the second wave of African American migrants were moving to urban areas from the south. Many African Americans were trying to escape the south because of the extreme “Black Codes” and local laws that made living extremely difficult. It was very likely for an African American to be arrested for next to nothing. For example, if one was caught loitering without a job they could be arrested. Then put to work just like slave times. This riot happened after WW1, so African Americans felt like they had earned the right to be full citizens. The white people of the area had other ideas. There were tons of efforts by whites to make the entire public believe that it was a mistake to free blacks. In the media there was Minstrel shows that depicted blacks as either happy to serve whites and stupid, or brute and extremely sexualized. This has devastating impacts for the African American community. Cartoons also began to depict blacks in the same way but in cartoons they can distort physical features and further dehumanize African Americans. This is what is molding the minds of children all over the United States. And in this case of Dick Rowland he was seen as a brute. Any African American who attacks a white woman would ensue great unrest among whites. (Pittman 2015).

Before 1907 which is the year that Oklahoma became a state. Over ten thousand blacks moved there to escape white violence and mass incarceration. The oil boom made the state flourish economically and African Americans had more opportunity to become successful businessmen and entrepreneurs. One could see African American doctors and lawyers and business men all living together in the Greenwood district. People during the early 20th century that moved to Oklahoma were also previous slave holders from the deep south. The very people the African Americans were trying to escape. From 1907 to 1921, 31 people were lynched and 26 of these people were black. I believe that this riot is an example of resistance from African Americans. Too many blacks had been lynched and they wanted to fight instead of seeing another lynched. So they took up arms, they had the resources and the means to fight back. This is rare, since most of Americas blacks were living in ghettos and could hardly find work. They were willing to protect Dick Rowland and 300 African Americans were killed along with a smaller number of whites.  As well as 6000 African Americans were detained by the national guard. (Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot).

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Krupnick, Alvin. “[Smoke Billowing over Tulsa, Oklahoma during 1921 Race Riots].” The Library of Congress. Alvin Krupnick Co., 1 June 1921. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <http://www.loc.gov/item/95517018/&gt;.

 

Tulsa, Museum. “1921 Tulsa Race Riot – Tulsa Historical Society & Museum.” Tulsa Historical Society Museum 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Comments. Tulsa Historical Society Museum, 2015. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <http://tulsahistory.org/learn/online-exhibits/the-tulsa-race-riot/&gt;.

 

Carlson, Marc. “TULSA RACE RIOT PHOTOGRAPHERS.” The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. I. Marc Carlson, 24 June 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2015

 

Pittman, LaShawnda. (2015). Lipsizt Housing and Education {Power Point Slides}. Retrieved from http://canvas.uw.edu

 

Pittman, LaShawda. (2015). Black Sexual Politics Lecture {Power Point Slides}. Retrieved from http://canvas.uw.edu

 

Oklahoma Commission To Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. “Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.” Encyclopedia of African American Society (2005): n. pag. Okhistory.org. United States Government, 28 Feb. 2001. Web. 11 Dec. 2015. <http://www.okhistory.org/research/forms/freport.pdf&gt;

 

 

 

 

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