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Tulsa Race Riot — Social Climate in Tulsa in 1921 — Tulsa Series

Signs of the Times

In my last post regarding the Tulsa Race Riot (The Undercurrent that Sparked the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot), I mentioned that the signs of the times were like neon lights flashing across the sky. It was true for the nation, but it was even more true for Tulsa in that specific era.

As I have previously stated, segregation had forced the area known as Greenwood, to invest in their own community.  They had become a self-sufficient and self-determined lot.

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Greenwood District of Tulsa prior to 1921 Race Riot

Greenwood Prospered

Greenwood was replete with prosperous businesses. This included realtors, doctors, dentists, teachers, attorneys, beauticians and barbers. Greenwood boasted rooming houses, restaurants, night clubs, hotels, bus services, airline charter service, hospital, movie theaters, schools and churches.

Booker T. Washington high school, built in 1913, had grown into a three-story, sixteen-room brick building. On May 31, 1921, the seniors were in a flurry of activities getting ready for their prom.  Sadly, that prom never came to pass.

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Booker T. Washington High School in Greenwood District

 

Vigilante Actions

The social climate in Tulsa in the years prior to the riot was one of increased vigilante actions and lawlessness.  Not only was the Klan active (2,000 strong in Tulsa alone), but also the Knights of Liberty formed their own mobs and hate groups.

The Knights of Liberty took offense with the IWW (International Workers of the World) who purported racial equality. In 1917, a group of IWW men were whipped and tarred and feathered by members of the Knights of Liberty with no interference whatsoever from law officers.

Public Lynching

Be A NovelistJust nine months before the Race Riot a white boy — an accused murderer — was publicly lynched, which gives an even clearer idea of the tenor of the town at the time. (Take the word public literally. Hundreds of Tulsans turned out for the event as though it were a community picnic.)

Out of the three Tulsa newspapers, only one, the Tulsa Star (the black’s community newspaper), condemned the lynching. The silence of the others spoke volumes about Tulsa at the time.  It was a population ready to accept quick justice – justice meted out by mob actions. One author writing about the times called it “string-him-up” mentality.

The Tulsa Tribune once sported this headline: “Tulsa appears now to be in danger of losing its prestige as the whitest town in Oklahoma.” Such sentiments couldn’t help but feed the already growing distrust of the burgeoning black community to the north of Tulsa.

Primed for the Explosion

On the one hand the community of Greenwood (Black Wall Street of America) fairly brimmed over with success and affluence. On the other hand, the resentment, suspicion, anger, bitterness, jealousy and envy continued to seethe just beneath the surface of the white community.

All was primed for the explosion that took place on May 31, and June 1, 1921.

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Book #1 (Tulsa Tempest)

(Click the cover for more information.)

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You can read Chapter 1 of Tulsa Tempest right HERE!

Free Download! 

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Book #2 (Tulsa Turning),

(Click the cover for more information.)

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I’ve launched a YouTube video series that I call (for obvious reasons!) The Writing Life These episodes reveal the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of a published author.

Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single episode.

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Tired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

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Undercurrent that Ignited the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot – Tulsa Series

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Greenwood Burning

Not An Isolated Event

One can never look at the infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Riot as an isolated event. It was not that at all.  Such cataclysmic incidents seldom are.  The signs of the times were like neon lights flashing across the sky.

We can begin with World War I, when the black citizens of America answered the call to serve their country.

WWI

During World War I 380,000 African Americans served in the wartime Army. Approximately 200,000 of these were sent to Europe. More than half of those sent abroad were assigned to labor and stevedore battalions, but they performed essential duties nonetheless, building roads, bridges, and trenches in support of the front-line battles. Roughly 42,000 saw combat. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/369th-infantry/

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Black soldiers arriving home from WWI

It’s only natural that these men returned home with the belief that they would be honored in the same manner as their white counterparts. It was not to be.

Lynchings

In 1919, there were an unprecedented sixty-one lynchings of African-Americans in the U.S.  In 1920, another sixty-one; and in 1921 fifty-seven.  It’s difficult in these times to imagine the extreme degree of lawlessness that existed to allow such slaughter to occur.

Because such hatred was not relegated to America, World-wide efforts sprang up to halt racial hostilities. One such effort was the Pan-African Congress in Paris organized by Harvard-educated Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois. (Du Bois had distinguished himself as the first African-American to earn a doctorate in the U.S.)

Fear and Suspicion

The more the black communities stepped out to assert themselves, the more fear, suspicion, bitterness, and jealousy grew among the white communities.

This was true in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well.  It was in this strange and unsettled time-era in which  the four titles in my Tulsa series take place.

More about the social climate in Tulsa in 1921 in my next Tulsa Series blog post.

Clean Teen Reads

Book #1 (Tulsa Tempest)

(Click the cover for more information.)

Be A Novelist

 

You can read Chapter 1 of Tulsa Tempest right HERE!

Free Download! 

Clean Teen Reads

Book #2 (Tulsa Turning),

(Click the cover for more information.)

Be A Novelist

Clean Teen Reads

I’ve launched a YouTube video series that I call (for obvious reasons!) The Writing Life These episodes reveal the ins and outs, and the ups and downs of a published author.

Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a single episode.

Clean Teen ReadsBe A Novelist

Tired of the struggle writing your book? Need a helping hand? Norma Jean’s Coaching Services may be the answer you’re looking for. Fill out the questionnaire on the page and let’s see if we’re a right fit. A FREE consultation gets the ball rolling. (Or the pen writing!) Click HERE!

Clean Teen Reads

Be A Novelist