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The teacher who probably most affected me was one who's name I don't remember. I was in 7th or 8th grade during the early 1960's and studying American History. We had gotten to the time period just after Would War I and the teacher said that he was going to tell us something we wouldn't read about in our text books.  He then told us about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, specifically he told us that the "official" versions of the facts were not true. I don't believe he returned to my school the next year. This truly brave man probably knew that he would be fired. You see, my school was located in Turley, an unincorporated area just north of Tulsa. You may remember recently hearing about Turley - the two men arrested for the April 6, 2012 shooting spree in Tulsa were living there at the time of their arrests.

After the riot, the truth was suppressed and lies printed. After a while, only those who had been there knew the truth. On June 1, 1996, the 75th anniversary of the event, a commemorative service was held and a memorial erected. In 1997, state representatives Don Ross (D-Tulsa) and Maxine Horner (D-Tulsa) introduced legislation into the Oklahoma House of Representatives to create the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission. The Commission's final report published on February 28, 2001 (found at http://www.okhistory.org/...) and includes the following:

This Commission fully understands that it is neither judge or jury.  We have no binding legal authority to assign culpability, to determine damages, to establish a remedy, or to order either recitation or reparations.  However, in our interim report in February, 2000 the majority of Commissioners declared that reparations to the historic Greenwood community in real and tangible form would be good public policy and do much to repair the emotional and physical scars of this terrible incident in our shared past. We listed several recommended courses of action including direct payments to riot survivors and decedents; a scholarship fund available to students affected by the riot; establishment of an economic development enterprise zone in the historic Greenwood district; a memorial for the riot victims.
The following is from Representative Ross' Prologue in the Report:
Tulsa’s Race Relations Are Ceremonial
In the 80 years hence, survivor, descendants, and a bereaved community seeks that administration in some action akin to justice. Tulsa’s race relations are more ceremonial — liken to a bad marriage, with spouses living in the same quarters but housed in different rooms, each escaping one another by perpetuating a separate- ness of silence. The French political historian Alexis d’Tocqueville noted, “Once the majority has irrevocably decided a question, it is no longer discussed. This is because the majority is a power that does not respond well to criticism.”

I first learn about the riot when I was about 15 from Booker T. Washington High School teacher and riot survivor W. D. Williams. In his slow, laboring voice Mr. W.D. as he was fondly known, said on the evening of May 31, 1921, his school graduation, and prom were canceled. Dick Rowland, who had dropped out of high school a few years before to become rich in the lucrative trade of shining shoes, was in jail, accused of raping a white woman Sarah Page, “on a public elevator in broad daylight.” After Rowland was arrested, angry white vigilantes gathered at the courthouse intent on lynching the shine boy. Armed blacks integrated the mob to protect him. There was a scuffle between a black and a white man, a shot rang out. The crowd scattered. It was about 10:00 a.m. A race riot had broken out. He said blacks defended their community for awhile, “but then the airplanes came dropping bombs.” All of the black community was burned to the ground and 300 people died.”

More annoyed than bored, I leaped from my chair and spoke: “Greenwood was never burned. Ain’t no 300 people dead. We’re too old for fairy tales.” Calling a teacher a liar was a capital offense Mr. W.D. snorted with a twist that framed his face with anger. He ignored my obstinacy and returned to his hyperbole. He finished his tale and dismissed the class. The next day he asked me to remain after class, and passed over a photo album with picture and post cards of Mount Zion Baptist Church on fire, the Dreamland Theater in shambles, whites with guns standing over dead bodies, blacks being marched to concentration camps with white mobs jeering, trucks loaded with caskets, and a yellowing newspaper article accounting block after block of destruction – “30, 75 even 300 dead.” Everything was just as he had described it. I was to learn later that Rowland was assigned a lawyer who was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan. “What you think, fat mouth?” Mr. W.D. asked his astonished student.

On June 1, 2001, Governor Keating (R) signed the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act recognizing the event but ignoring the request for reparations. Each survivor was given a gold-plated medal bearing the state seal. In February 2003, a reparations lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of the survivors and descendants of victims and survivors. In March 2004, the lawsuit was dismissed.
The judge, however, ruled that the lawsuit was many years too late. He stressed that he was ruling only on the legal question of when a deadline for suing had passed and his ruling was not intended to "speak to the tragedy of the riot or the terrible devastation it caused."
In 2004, the Tenth Circuit upheld the dismissal. A petition for review filed with the Supreme Court in 2005 was denied. In 2007, Congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, introduced the Tulsa Greenwood Riot Accountability Act of 2007 which would provide that any Greenwood claimant (a survivor or descendent of victims) who has to previously obtained a determination on the merits of a Greenwood claim may, in a civil action commenced within five years after enactment of this Act, obtain a determination. A hearing was held on April 24, 2007 (see http://judiciary.house.gov/...). The Republican controlled committee took no further action.

The John Hope Franklin Tulsa-Greenwood Race Riot Claims Accountability Act of 2009 (H.R. 1843) was introduced April 1, 2009 and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary which referred it to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. It was referred back to the full Committee on June 11, 2009.  Again, the Republican controlled committee took no further action.

On May 8, 2012, Mr. Conyers introduced H.R. 5593, the John Hope Franklin Tulsa-Greenwood Race Riot Claims Accountability Act of 2012 (see http://www.govtrack.us/...). This time the proposed bill declares that:

any person (including the state of Oklahoma) who, in connection with the Greenwood community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, race riot of 1921 and its aftermath, acted under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of the state of Oklahoma to subject, or cause to be subjected, any person to the deprivation, on account of race, of any right secured at the time of the deprivation by Oklahoma law, shall be liable to the party injured in a civil action for redress (thereby allowing claims for damages notwithstanding the federal court decision in Alexander v. State of Oklahoma, which found that such claims were time-barred and not to be determined on the merits).

It was referred to Judiciary Committee on May 8, which referred it to the Subcommittee on the Constitution on May 18, 2012, where it now sits.

Why does Mr. Conyers of Michigan continue to fight for the survivors and descendent of the riot? Here is part of the speech he made when introducing the current bill:

The case of the Tulsa-Greenwood Riot victims is worthy of Congressional attention because substantial evidence suggests that governmental officials deputized and armed the mob and that the National Guard joined in the destruction. The report commissioned by the Oklahoma State Legislature in 1997, and published in 2001, uncovered new information and detailed, for the first time, the extent of the involvement by the State and city government in prosecuting and erasing evidence of the riot. This new evidence was crucial for the formulation of a substantial case, but its timeliness raised issues at law, and resulted in a dismissal on statute of limitation grounds. In dismissing the survivor's claims, however, the Court found that extraordinary circumstances might support extending the statute of limitations, but that Congress did not establish rules applicable to the case at bar. With this legislation, we have the opportunity to provide closure for a group of claimants--many over 100 years old--and the ability close the book on a tragic chapter in history.
http://thomas.loc.gov/...
Once again it is unlikely that the bill will make it out of the Committee on the Judiciary. To see who is on the Committee go to http://judiciary.house.gov/.... The Subcommittee on the Constitution is composed of Franks, R-Arizona (Chairman); Pence, R-Indiana (Vice-Chairman); Chabot, R-Ohio; Forbes, R-Virginia; King, R-Iowa; Jordan, R-Ohio; Nadler, D-New York; Quigley, D-Illinois; Conyers, D-Micigan; and Scott, Virginia.

Originally posted to Expat Okie on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 03:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Oklahoma Roundup, Black Kos community, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I remember many years back when they (12+ / 0-)

    came across the bodies from lynchings.  The Tulsa Race Riots have long been kept secret; it is certainly time that the truth came out.  

    It is something that Oklahoma desperately needs.  

    It gets on my nerves, and you know how I am about my nerves...

    by ciganka on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 03:25:32 PM PDT

  •  The Tulsa Race Riot is buried by Republicans (14+ / 0-)

    No harm, no foul is their mantra since the foul was over 90 years ago there can't be any current harm. Republicans in Oklahoma today are just as racist as they were 90 years ago. In fact with the recent complete takeover of the state it's now worse. They don't even have to pretend anymore or use coded language. Everyone just knows that these blacks got what they deserved.

    The southern states have the reputation of being racist, bigoted and backwards. Believe me Oklahoma is way ahead of them now.

  •  The Harlem Renaissance should have been called (15+ / 0-)

    The Tulsa Renaissance.  Because many of the originators--the artists, business owners, what have you--went to New York after the Tulsa Riots.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 03:41:09 PM PDT

  •  Teaching the Race Riot (9+ / 0-)

    hadn't changed when I was a student approximately 30 years later...  It is a stain on our history, both Oklahoma and United States.  The lack of justice is yet another stain.

    I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

    by Prof Dave on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 05:32:34 PM PDT

  •  I went to Jr. High and High School (6+ / 0-)

    in Wilmington, North Carolina in the early-mid '70s. It wasn't until decades later that I found out that Wilmington was the scene of the biggest racial coup d'etat in American history.

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 05:40:54 PM PDT

  •  Tulsa Greenwood Riot Accountability Act (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywriter, sb, realwischeese

    Just to note, there was no Republican-controlled committee in the US Congress in 2007 or 2009 -- Democrats controlled both the house and the senate from 2007 to 2009.  I think Conyers was a committee chairman in 2007-2009, or a subcommittee chair at the very least.

    ----------------

    "In 2004, the Tenth Circuit upheld the dismissal. A petition for review filed with the Supreme Court in 2005 was denied. In 2007, Congressman John Conyers Jr., D-Michigan, introduced the Tulsa Greenwood Riot Accountability Act of 2007 which would provide that any Greenwood claimant (a survivor or descendent of victims) who has to previously obtained a determination on the merits of a Greenwood claim may, in a civil action commenced within five years after enactment of this Act, obtain a determination. A hearing was held on April 24, 2007 (see http://judiciary.house.gov/....). The Republican controlled committee took no further action.
    The John Hope Franklin Tulsa-Greenwood Race Riot Claims Accountability Act of 2009 (H.R. 1843) was introduced April 1, 2009 and referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary which referred it to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. It was referred back to the full Committee on June 11, 2009.  Again, the Republican controlled committee took no further action."

  •  I learned about it in college (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deha, sb, xaxnar, realwischeese, Expat Okie

    I was required to take a single course in American history while a freshman at Tulsa University around 1979. I don't remember the professor's name. I think he was Irish. He knew a lot about the riot.

    He said that if you went down to the offices of the local newspaper and searched their archives, you would find that all of the relevant material had been removed.

    He said that we don't have an accurate count of how many African Americans perished in the riot because a lot of them left town that day and never came back.

    He interviewed a white man who arrived on a train that day. An officer was there to greet him. The officer offered him a rifle and asked, "Do you want to shoot some niggers?"

    The Greenwood area was definitely burned, but I don't remember anything about it being bombed from the air.

    •  There were indeed attacks by air (11+ / 0-)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/...

      Numerous accounts described airplanes carrying white assailants firing rifles and dropping firebombs on buildings, homes, and fleeing families. The planes, six biplane two-seater trainers left over from World War I, were dispatched from the nearby Curtiss-Southwest Field (now defunct) outside of Tulsa.[18] White law enforcement officials later claimed the planes were to provide reconnaissance and protect whites against what they described as a "Negro uprising."[18] But, eyewitness accounts and testimony from the survivors confirmed that on the morning of June 1, the planes dropped incendiary bombs and fired rifles at black residents on the ground.[18]
      Here's the reference:  Madigan, Tim. The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, New York: St Martin's Press (2001) at pp. 4, 131-132, 144, 159, 164, 249.  It is from Wikipedia and I haven't read the book, but I have no doubts about it at all.

      I'm pretty happy with 121st place. Not bad for 13 points.

      by Prof Dave on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 07:13:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the info! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Prof Dave

        That long ago, I guess it would be open-cockpit biplanes.

        I wonder what the incendiary devices were?

        I am going to check out Tim Madigan's book. It sounds like a good one.

        Thanks again for the correction!

  •  A very important part of our history (6+ / 0-)

    The truth needs to be told and widely learned.

  •  Thanks for writing this diary (7+ / 0-)

    It's been on my list of things to do.

    For an online overview with shocking photographs, see Scott Ellsworth's History does not take place in a vacuum.

    For a detailed telling, see Ellsworth's Death In a Promised Land

    And if you can get your hands on this rare book (I am reading a copy transferred in through my library) -- take a look at Riot on Greenwood: The Total Destruction of Black Wall Street by Eddie Faye Gates, a former high school history teacher, public school administrator and curriculum writer. She served on the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Gates is also the author of They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought the Promised Land in Tulsa.

    Riot on Greenwood: The Total Destruction of Black Wall Street is interesting because Gates took the time to interview the last living witnesses to this white riot that resulted in the mass slaughter -- a pogrom -- of black residents.

    The beginning of reparations is to make certain this story is known far and wide. We must make it so that the world can never forget what happened in Tulsa and in Wilmington, NC a generation earlier. Both were horrendous events propelled by the same racist motives.

    •  Eddie Faye Gates (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      IreGyre

      Mrs. Gates was my 10th grade history teacher at Tulsa Edison HS. She was quite the inspiration. Tulsa was totally segregated at the time and she was one of the few black teachers. My class of almost 700 had 1 black student. I would go back and see her after college. She also encouraged me to stay active in Dem politics although my parents also instilled that. Back then the state wasn't nearly as RED even though it was smack in the middle of the bible belt- Oral Roberts Univ isn't far from Edison and there was definitely multi-generational oil wealth at the school. Anyway- Mrs. Gates is in poor health now and basically doesn't see anyone but she should get credit for bringing awareness to this once hidden part of Tulsa history.

  •  More on book by Eddie Faye Gates (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sb, Ender, Expat Okie

    Riot on Greenwood: The Total Destruction of Black Wall Street is filled with the stories and photographs of those who died in Tulsa at the hands of white rioters and the stories and photographs of those who remembered and were able to escape.

    Important also is the documentary The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story, which was nominated for two Emmys in 2001.

    Gates, a former high school principal, appealed through the Tulsa World newspaper for white eyewitnesses to the white riot and an 80-year-old man responded. He had been age 8 when he witnesses what happened. He tells the story of being in a barber shop getting his hair cut. "One barber told the barber who was cutting my hair to 'Hurry up and finish cutting that kid's hair so we can get our guns and go down to Midland Valley and shoot some niggers."

    "I don't know whether they went and shot any black people or not, but I do know that my barber hurried up. He just botched up my hair! Whether they shot any black people or not, I don't know. I do know that they left the barbershop with that intent."

    •  Was the documentary an HBO production? (0+ / 0-)

      "The problem with quotes on the internet is you can never be certain they're authentic." - Abraham Lincoln

      by realwischeese on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 02:59:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think so but don't know (0+ / 0-)

        This is the closest I found.

        The Tulsa Lynching of 1921: A Hidden Story (Cinemax, premiered May 31, 2000. Rebroadcast in Feb. 2001. HBO may have run it also.)
        Written, produced and directed by Michael Wilkerson. On camera are nine survivors | 20 were asked, but some were then too afraid. Photographs: over 400 photographs of the period are included in the film. Original cut was 3.5 hours long; final cut for cable was +/- 80 min.
        Barrister Studios
        5800 South Lewis | Tulsa OK 74105
        Tel: 918 742-3266 | Fax: 918 742-3426
        Email: BarrStudios@AOL.com
        I wanted to buy the film but can't find it.
  •  John Hope Franklin's father was a Tulsa lawyer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sb, Expat Okie

    John Hope Franklin was of course the eminent historian who died just a few years ago. The building where his dad practiced law was burned during the riot and Franklin wrote about what he remembered of those events in his autobiography and in an essay in one of his books of essays.

    Greenwood, the target of the riot, was the prominent black middle class section of Tulsa where many people were successful. I suspect it was that success that the white rioters, led by the town gentry, found so repellant.

  •  My friends and I learned about this in high school (7+ / 0-)

    Not because we were taught about it (this was in the late 60s) -- but because someone had found a copy of the 1941 WPA Guide to Oklahoma in a used book store, and then passed it around surreptitiously. It was a great shock to everyone. No one had ever mentioned this event to us.

    •  I'd never learned about the riot in high school (7+ / 0-)

      My first hint about it actually came from a part movie part documentary about it.  Seeing the deep institutionalization (is that a word?) of racism in the 1920s kinda made me sick. Most of the people who participated in this probably went to their graves believing they had done the right thing.  Self delusion can take a person far from humanity.

      As of right now, I loathe all anti-choice politicians with an intensity greater than the radiation output of a thousand suns. 3.13.12

      by GenuineRisk on Sat Jun 30, 2012 at 08:49:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Those who can make you believe absurdities (0+ / 0-)

        can make you commit atrocities. - Voltaire. True then, true now, sadly..

        Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

        by OrdinaryIowan on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 02:59:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It was certianly never talked about (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sb, realwischeese, Expat Okie

    I went to Washington HS as part of the Voluntary Integration program beginning in '73 and the bus that I rode the first year went right through the Greenwood area, but I don't recall ever hearing word one about the riot at that time, it was not until much much later that I heard about it.

  •  Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey performs this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Expat Okie, skywriter

    Tulsa Race Riot Suite. Just saw them this week at Rochester Jaz Fest. It's quite intense. It can also be heard online at archive.org

    •  Just listened to two tracks! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PHScott

      at http://jfjo.com/....  Thanks for the comment. I was unaware of The Race Riot Suite. A live performance must have been amazing!

    •  JFJO (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PHScott

      Wow- fun thread for me. Eddie Faye Gates- mentioned above was my 10th grade history teacher at Tulsa Edison and Brian Haas, founder of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is my stepdaughter's long term boyfriend/member of our family. You are right, the Race Riot Suites is intense and an incredible piece of music. It was composed by another band member Chris Combs. JFJO is currently in Europe playing a variety of festivals. Thanks for posting and for the link in the post below.

  •  The secret history of America (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OrdinaryIowan, 2thanks, Expat Okie

    The parts we refuse to acknowledge, because America is 'exceptional' you know, and it's racist to talk about racism.

    We pray for mercy because we would all be fools to pray for justice.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 01:44:46 PM PDT

  •  Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rosewood, Florida. (4+ / 0-)

    Violence piled on injustice stirred with cover-ups mixed with lies, hungrily wolfed down by a "Christian" white citizenry eager to absolve themselves of their guilt while they revel in the unjustified superiority of their whiteness. Are there more such places of infamy and destruction? Undoubtedly. We cannot honestly shape our future until we acknowledge our past.

    Your black cards can make you money, so you hide them when you're able; in the land of milk and honey, you must put them on the table - Steely Dan

    by OrdinaryIowan on Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 02:53:29 PM PDT

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