In late May 1921, black teenager Dick Rowland was falsely accused of assaulting a white woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Clashes between black and white residents of Tulsa spiraled into the deadliest in a series of incidents of mass racial violence that convulsed the United States in the early 1900s. In Tulsa, as in all of these massacres, white mobs destroyed black communities, property, and lives.
A century later, the people of Tulsa continue to struggle with understanding and repairing this event’s legacy.
Massacre, May 31- June 2, 1921
As the massacre continued from May 31 into the next day, police deputized many white civilians who were involved in the shooting, burning, and looting. While some families attempted to save their homes and businesses from the fires, many people fled in fear for their lives.
The damage that was done was not only the material things: a house destroyed. The entire neighborhood destroyed. The businesses destroyed. All the services destroyed. Our school bombed on the day that we should have been getting our report cards to move up to the next class. So that the children of Tulsa were very devastated.Dr. Olivia J. Hooker Tulsa Race Massacre Survivor
The Artifacts of Tulsa
Artifacts from the Tulsa Race Massacre
Reconstructing the Dreamland
The massacre was one in a long chain of mass acts of racial violence against African Americans that began in the aftermath of the Civil War. All were focused on demonstrating a system of white supremacy in response to the growing political, social and cultural imprint of African American communities despite the restrictions that segregation cemented into custom, law, and practice in the early 20th century.
A partial list of places conjures the expansive and dizzying geographic of this array of organized white violence visited upon Black communities: Memphis, Tennessee (1866), Colfax, Louisiana (1873); Clinton, Mississippi (1875); Hamburg, South Carolina (1876); Thibodaux, Louisiana (1887); Omaha, Nebraska (1891); Wilmington, NC (1898); Atlanta, Georgia (1906); St. Louis, Missouri (1917); Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois; Elaine, Arkansas (all part of Red Summer, 1919).