The Tulsa Riot of 1921
In this episode, the story of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is explained.
Tulsa had been built by millionaire oil barons. From 1910 to 1920the population soared as people from all walks of life found their way to Tulsa.
There was an area just north of Tulsa that was growing rapidly as well. It was called Greenwood. Greenwood was the black district of Tulsa. And, as Tulsa grew, Greenwood grew with it. Across the railroad tracks in T-Town, there were a bunch of people who resented Greenwood’s success.
When they looked over at Greenwood they saw blacks doing better than they were. The successful blacks were referred to as “uppity.”
This was the era of Jim Crow segregation. This was the system established by Plessy v. Ferguson; separate but equal for blacks and whites – different restrooms, water fountains, railroad cars, and telephone booths.
This was the situation in Tulsa in 1921 when Dick Rowland, a nineteen-year-old black shoe- shiner, entered the elevator of the Drexel Building en route to the ‘colored’ washroom on the top floor. Upon entering the elevator, he encountered Sarah Page, a seventeen-year old white girl.
In the most generally accepted account, Rowland tripped and, in an effort to catch himself, grabbed the arm of Page, who subsequently screamed. A clerk heard the scream and observed Rowland running out of the building. The clerk found Miss Page in a distraught state and notified the authorities. The incident set off a series of events that is widely regarded as being the worst race riot in US history.