Show Notes: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921

Tracy Wilson

Wounded prisoners are placed in a truck after the governor declared martial law. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

If you follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you may have seen me put out a request recently for some happier history fare. I'd spent the weeks leading up to that request researching the Doctors' Riot, the Battle of Blair Mountain and the subject of today's episode - the Tulsa race riot of 1921, also known as the destruction of Black Wall Street. Holly and I have to pause our recording because we've become emotional often enough that it's become kind of a running joke between us. This is the first time I've had to pause my research for that reason. I'd never heard of the event before listeners requested it, in part because it was deliberately swept under the rug for nearly half a century after it took place.

The population in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma, boomed prior to 1921, thanks to the discovery of oil in the area. The Tulsa suburb of Greenwood grew into a thriving African-American community thanks to a combination of segregation and black entrepreneurship. On May 31 and June 1, a mob of white Tulsa citizens, including sworn law enforcement and members of the National Guard, burned it down after being thwarted in their attempt to lynch a young black man for a crime he did not commit. Thousands lost their homes, and hundreds died.

Our listener mail is from Francie about our episode on the Grove Park Inn episode.

Episode link: The Tulsa Race Riot and Black Wall Street

For more knowledge: How Riots Work

My research:

  • Fields-White, Monee. "Greenwood, Okla.: The Legacy of the Tulsa Race Riot." The Root. Feb. 24, 2011. http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2011/02/greenwood_oklahoma_from_the_black_wall_street_to_the_tulsa_race_riot.3.html
  • Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. "Tulsa Race Riot." Feb. 28, 2001. www.okhistory.org/research/forms/freport.pdf
  • Oklahoma Historical Society. "Tulsa Race Riot." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/t/tu013.html
  • Tulsa Historical Society. "The Tulsa Race Riot." http://www.tulsahistory.org/learn/online-exhibits/the-tulsa-race-riot/
  • White, Walter F. and the Editors. "Tulsa, 1921." The Nation. 8/20/2001. http://www.thenation.com/article/tulsa-1921#

Shogan, Robert. "The Battle of Blair Mountain: The Story of America's Largest Labor Uprising." Basic Books. July 26, 2006. You can listen to Stuff You Missed in History Class via iTunes and the Stuff You Missed in History Class RSS feed. Follow us on Twitter at @missedinhistory, and you can keep up with us on the official Stuff You Missed in History Class Facebook page. We're also on Tumblr and Pinterest.