The 1921 Tulsa Massacre: How it all started


On May 1921, a black shoeshiner identified as Dick Rowland aged 19-years old entered the Drexel building at 319 South Main Street to attend natureʼs call at the Blacks only restroom on the top floor, which was operated by a White teenager by the name Sarah Page.

According to a report, Rowland accidentally slipped and fell on Page, causing her to scream out of fear. Another who happened to be a White clerk witnessed the whole incident and alarmed the police, which then got Rowland arrested and charged with assault, although Sarah Page decided not to press any charges.

Matters got worse when the local newspaper published the incident that took place as a “crime” and requested for Rowland to be lynched.

May 31, 1921, young Rowland got trialled in court and this caused certain concerns for the Black community who were reluctant to accept what could be done to poor Rowland and the White angry mob who planned to lynch Rowland at all cost. Things got heated up real quick when the White angry mob attacked and destroyed the businesses and homes of the Blacks who tried defending themselves. The Tulsa Race Riot led to 300 lives and 1,200 homes been destroyed and burnt to ashes.

A survivor named Mr Buck Colbert Franklin sought it wise to help the Black community by rebuilding their lives by getting back on their feet after being denied access to continue living in Greenwood. After several attempts, Franklin was able to sue the city of Tulsa before the Oklahoma Supreme Court and won.


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