Tulsa Race Massacre [ What Happened ?! ] - Mystery & Makeup GRWM | Bailey Sarian
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If you're ever curious to know what products I'm using, I do list them down in the description box, but other than that, I will shut my dirty little mouth, and let's get right into it. Today we are dabbling in some American history. Woo! As uncomfortable as American History can be, it's still important that we talk about it, right? I'm sure we can all agree on that, at least I hope, because there is something always to be learnt from it. So, we're going to Oklahoma. That's right baby, Oklahoma. ♫ Oklahoma ♫ In 1921, Oklahoma had a racially, socially, and politically tense atmosphere.
The First World War had ended in 1918, with the return of many ex-servicemen coming back home. Civil rights was still lacking, for many people, and the Ku Klux Klan was on the rise. The Ku Klux Klan-- I should have looked up like when they started, but I think it was around this time. But they were on the rise, and they were becoming more, and more popular, and more well know, unfortunately. Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a booming oil city, which supported a large number of affluent, educated, and professional African Americans. This caused tensions in the city, and a combination of factors played a part in all of this really.
It was mainly like just racial tensions. Oklahoma was admitted as a state, in November of 1907. The newly created state legislator, passed Jim Crow laws, which were state, and local laws, that enforced racial segregation. The 1907 Oklahoma constitution, did not call for strict segregation, but still the very first law passed, segregated all rail travel, and voter registration rules, which effectively disenfranchised most of the Black Community. So, that meant that they were also not allowed to serve on juries, or in local office. Now these laws were in place, until after the passing of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was 60 years after this event that we're talking about today.
On August 14th, 1916, Tulsa passed a law that mandated residential segregation by forbidding blacks or whites, from residing on any block, where 3/4 or more of the residents were of the other
race. Now the United States Supreme Court declared this was unconstitutional the following year. Tulsa, and many other Southern cities continued to establish, and enforce segregation for the next three decades. They didn't give a shit. They were playing by their own rules. Since 1915, the Ku Klux Klan had been growing in urban chapters across the country. By the end of 1921, Tulsa had about 3,200 residents in the Klan by one estimate.
And the city's population was 72,000 in 1920. There's a lot of people in the Ku Klux Klan is what I’m saying. So, Greenwood was a district in Tulsa, organized in 1906. Greenwood became so successful, that it was known as "The Black Wall Street". So, the Black Community had created their own businesses and services in this area, and several grocery stores, two movie theaters. They had night clubs. They had restaurants, numerous churches, and even their own newspaper. Oh yes. They had Black professionals including dentists, doctors, lawyers, all lived, and worked in this area as well.
Now because the Black Community was not welcome in other towns, or cities, or even to live on like the same block as white people, so instead they decided "Hey, let's start our own successful town, let's do it ourselves". And that's what they did. So, Greenwood residents selected their own leaders, and raised capital there to support economic growth. I mean they took it into thei own hands, they’re like "Look, the white men are not gonna allow us to be successful in their neighborhood," "or be successful contributing members of society in their neighborhoods," "so, let’s just take it into our own hands".
Which they did. They built their own town, their own neighborhood, that was very successful. And of course, this caught attention from the White Community. It fed into the racism that was going on, because "How dare they start their own successful neighborhood?" "And how dare they be more successful than us?". They didn’t like that. On May 30th, 1921, a young black teenager named Dick Rowland, who worked as a shoe shiner, employed at a Main Street shine parlor. He had entered an elevator at the Drexel Building, which was an office building on South Main Street.
It’s believed Rowland may have been trying to get to the only restroom in the building, but its unsure. He goes into the building, and he goes to the elevator. Now the woman operating the elevator was a white woman, named Sarah Page. And Dick Rowland had entered the elevator, and what
happenedon the elevator, is unknown exactly. But what we do know, is that at some point, while the two were on the elevator Sarah Page had screamed, and Dick Rowland was seen running out of the elevator. The guy who was working the front desk in the building, he ran over to the elevator, and he saw Sarah, in what he said, was a "distraught state", and he called the police.
The police came out, and most likely questioned Sarah, but there was no written account anywhere of her statement, that has been found. They must’ve been like "Oh I’ll just remember it with my mind", or they burnt it, we don’t know. Most believe that the police had determined what
happenedbetween the two, and then authorities conducted like a low-key investigation of their own, without doing the proper paperwork. Now unfortunately, people were talking. Rumors were swirling. Not even long after the incident took place, about what supposedly happened on that elevator, it had circulated through the city’s White Community.
A front-page story in the Tulsa Tribune, reported that police had arrested Rowland for sexually assaulting Page. This is what they put on the front page of their newspaper, that Rowland had sexually assaulted Page. Mind you, this didn’t happen. I know it’s a spoiler, but he didn’t sexually assault her, they were just being shitty people, okay. But they ran it. Oh baby they ran that story. Front page? Front page, you don’t think that’s gonna get people a lil' riled up? Of course, it is, it's 1921. They’re just waiting for an excuse to rage.
The white people that is. This newspaper gets out there, and Rowland had a good reason to be scared, because at this time, an accusation alone could put him at risk for an attack by angry mobs of white people. He knew his life is now in danger. So, Rowland now fearing his life for good reason, Rowland decided to stay with his mother, who lived in the Greenwood neighborhood. So, he went there to try and hide out, until hopefully things calmed down. On the morning after the incident, Rowland was located and arrested, and taken to the Tulsa city jail, then was transferred, due to the jail receiving threatening phone calls, from people saying that they were going to kill Rowland, and to just hand him over, because they were going to take care of him. “They” meaning the angry white people.
So, as night-time approached, an angry white mob was gathering outside the courthouse, where Rowland was at. And they were demanding that the Sheriff hand over Rowland. The Sheriff, Willard McCullough, he refused to hand over Rowland, and his officers barricaded the top floor to protect him as well. They shut down the building’s elevators, and had the remaining men barricade themselves at the top of the stairs, with orders to shoot any intruders in sight, pretty much if they came up, and were trying to get through. The sheriff though decided, "I’m just gonna go outside, and try and like talk to the angry people," "angry white people, try to calm them down".
So, he goes out there, tries to calm them down, and send them home, but he had no luck. They were not going anywhere. They were not going unless he handed over Rowland. The angry mob wanted Rowland lynched, and were protesting to Lynch Rowland. Now, a few blocks away, members of the community gathered, and discussed what was going on. What happened to Rowland? Why was everyone angry? Like "What are we gonna do to calm this down, and make sure that Rowland is okay?". They were trying their best to come up with a plan to prevent the crowd from lynching Rowland, because let’s be real, it was probably going to happen if they allowed it.
At around 9 p.m., a group of about 25 armed black men, including some World War I veterans, they went to the courthouse, to offer help guarding Rowland from the growing mob. Now, the reason it’s said why they went down there in the first place, because naturally, y'know people want to think like, "Well they were trying to start something by going down there," "and they shouldn’t have done that". But the reason they said that they went down there in the first place, was because the main Sheriff, Sheriff McCullough, he personally told them their presence was required at the courthouse.
So, 25 of them, they go out there, and the Sheriff turns them away. Saying they were not needed, but 10 witnesses said that they were just following the order from the Sheriff in the first place. That he personally asked for them to be there. The sheriff went out, made like a public statement, saying "I never asked for them", he’s publicly denying that he gave any orders for them to be there. So, little frustrated, but they were just trying to follow the rules. Now, seeing the armed Black Community show up, many of the white mob tried to unsuccessfully break into the National Guard armory nearby, they were trying to break in, steal guns, and also get more ammunition.
So, rumors are still circling around that there’s going to be a possible lynching. Obviously, people from the Greenwood community were getting nervous about this, that this is probably going to happen, it’s going to happen unless they stand their ground. 75 members of the Greenwood community, they had returned to the courthouse, armed, and they showed up there around 10 p.m., they just were there to make sure that nothing happened to Rowland, like it was simple as that, y'know? Unfortunately, though, there was only 75 of them. When they got to the courthouse, they see that there were over 1,500 angry white people. 1,500 verses 75, scary.
Now, according to witnesses, a white man is alleged to have told one of the armed black men, to surrender his pistol, course it was probably more aggressive than that, but pretty much telling him to "Give me your gun" or whatever, y'know. But the man refused, and a shot was fired. Now some say that it may have been accidental, or it was meant to be a warning. but because of this one shot, it turned into many firing their weapons at one another. So, after shots were fired, pretty much chaos broke out. Mhm. One gunshot pretty much started everybody getting out of control.
So those who came from Greenwood, they pretty much retreated on foot, back to Greenwood, some in vehicles, I’m sorry. But they pretty much went back to Greenwood. The armed white mob, instead of just leaving them alone, they decided to follow them, back into Greenwood. So, a lot of the angry white mobsters, they stopped to loot local stores for additional weapons and ammunition. Along the way, any bystanders, who they saw like leaving a movie theatre, maybe like the show has just ended, they’re walking out, someone leaving a restaurant or whatever, the angry white people, they shot them.
They were just shooting anybody that they saw, who was black. So, panic had set in, because the angry white mob, they began firing on any black people that they saw, turning quickly into an angry white riot. At around 11 p.m., members of the National Guard unit, began to assemble at the armory, to organize a plan to subdue the rioters. Several groups were deployed downtown to set up guard at the courthouse, also, at the police station, and other public facilities. The forces appeared to have been deployed to protect the white districts, which were adjacent to Greenwood, and not there to protect Greenwood itself, or the community, AKA the Black Community at all.
It was there to protect the angry white people. As the evening continued, the National Guard rounded up numerous black people, and took them to the Convention Hall on Brady Street for detention. Why they were being arrested, and detained? Well, to simply put it, they were being arrested because they were black. I mean, they didn’t have guns-- there were many people arrested, detained, and taken in, who were not armed, who were just fucking minding their own damn business. And that’s a fact, I mean that’s not even up for debate. Some people try to debate it but...
I don’t know why. So, many prominent white Tulsans, also participated in the riot, including Tulsa founder and Ku Klux Klan member, W. Tate Brady, who participated in the riot as a night watchman. He showed up like "Oh, I’m gonna help with this shit!". So, June 1st, 1921, throughout the early morning, small groups of whites made it into Greenwood by car, some on foot, but mainly on car, and was just shooting with no rhyme or reason into businesses and residences, and they would throw lighted oil rags into several buildings along the streets, setting whatever was in their path on fire.
Then crews from the Tulsa Fire Department came to town, y'know, they arrived, right? To put out the fires, as fireman do. So, they showed up, and they were there to put out the fires, but the firefighters were turned away at gunpoint, by the angry white mob. They would not allow them to enter into the town and put out the fires. So, residents inside Greenwood, many of them began to get their handguns, or something to defend their neighborhood, while a lot more tried to flee the town completely. They had to get out. But throughout the night, both sides continued fighting.
According to a Red Cross estimate, around 1,256 houses were burned throughout the night, 215 others were looted, but not set on fire. Two newspaper companies, schools, a library, a hospital, churches, hotels, stores and many other black-owned businesses were destroyed, or damaged by fire. For what? We know what, because they were racist and angry! It’s believed that 100 to 300 people were killed during this
massacre. Numerous eyewitnesses described airplanes flying above the town, and they were firing their rifles, out of the airplane, and they also dropped firebombs on buildings, homes and families. Law enforcement personnel were thought to be aboard at least some of those airplanes, but there were some flights said to be privately owned.
By who? Y'know? By who? Eyewitness accounts, such as testimony from the survivors, during Commission hearings and a manuscript by eyewitnesses, discovered in 2015, said that on the morning of June 1st, at least "a dozen or more" planes circled the neighborhood and dropped "burning turpentine balls" on an office building, a hotel, a gas station and multiple other buildings. Men also fired rifles at young and old black residents, gunning them down in the street, Where they just left everybody, in the street. Law enforcement officials, y'know, stepped in, gave a little statement. They’re like "Look, those airplanes," "they were put there to simply provide safety and protect" "against a 'N-word' uprising".
In other parts of the city, where, y'know, there was a lot of middle-class white families, who employed black people in their homes, as live-in cooks and servants. Well, the angry white rioters went to their homes, and they demanded that the families turn over their employees to be taken to detention centers around the city. Now because these angry white people are showing up with fucking rifles, and fucking shit, many of them complied, because if they didn’t, well, they were harassed by the rioters and their homes were then vandalized. So, then the governor of Oklahoma-- Well I kinda already mentioned this.
But the governor of Oklahoma had ordered the National Guards to come in, y'know? So, 109 troops from Oklahoma City, and then following that, Oklahoma City was put under martial law, which would be established that day. So, troops were pretty much arresting anyone and everyone who was black, and then requiring them, requiring the detainees to carry identification cards. And it’s said as many as 6,000 black Greenwood residents, were held at three local facilities: They had the Convention Hall, which would be now known as the Brady Theater, the Tulsa County Fairgrounds, which then it was located about a mile north east of Greenwood, and McNulty Park, which was a-- Or is a baseball stadium, is it still a baseball stadium?
Probably. Some were held aat these locations for as long as eight days. For what you ask? For being black. Martial law was declared around 11:30 AM, and by noon the troops had managed to suppress most of the remaining violence. In the hours after the Tulsa Race Massacre, all charges against Dick Rowland were dropped. Sarah, the woman who was working the elevator, she decided that she didn’t want to press charges, or she dropped the charges. So, the police had concluded that Rowland had most likely just stumbled into Page, or even stepped on her foot, while they were both in the elevator, which lead to her kind of shrieking, or screaming, whatever she did.
Rowland, who was kept safely under guard in the jail during the riot, he ended up being exonerated, and he left Tulsa the next morning, and reportedly never returned. I mean yay for Rowland, but 35 city blocks were completely destroyed, over 800 people were treated for their injuries, and the “official” tally of deaths in the
massacrewas 36 people. Which, now, historians consider much too low. The Tulsa Race Massacre stood as one of the deadliest riots in U.S. history, behind only the New York Draft Riots of 1863, which killed 119 people. In the years to come, as the Black Community worked to rebuild their ruined homes, and businesses, segregation in the city only increased, and Oklahoma’s newly established branch of the KKK grew in strength.
Of course, how the newspaper was playing this, was of course trying to make the Black Community out to be the bad ones, like they tend to do. For decades, there was no public ceremonies, there were no memorials for the dead, or any efforts to even acknowledge the events taken place between May 31st and June 1st, 1921. Instead, there was a deliberate effort to cover the whole thing up, like it never happened. Yep, that’s right. Tulsa massacre what’s that? Rumors... (humming) That’s how I imagine the people in the office were. "What’s that? "Never heard of it." "Never happened, no".
Remember the Tulsa Tribune? They were the newspaper who reported the story in the first place, and essentially caused the outrage. Well guess what? They removed the front-page story of May 31st from its bound volumes. Essentially erasing it form its records, like it never happened. They should be held accountable. Scholars later discovered that police and state archives about the riot, were completely missing as well. As a result, until recently, the Tulsa Race Massacre was rarely mentioned in history books, it wasn’t taught in schools, or even talked about. In 1996, on the riot’s 75th anniversary, a service was held at the Mount Zion Baptist Church, which rioters had burned to the ground, and a memorial was placed in front of Greenwood Cultural Center.
The following year, an official state government commission was created to investigate the Tulsa Race Riot. Scientists and historians began looking into long-ago stories, including numerous victims buried in unmarked graves. In 2001, the report of the Race Riot Commission concluded that between 100 and 300 people were killed, and more than 8,000 people were made homeless over those 18 hours in 1921. Over the next year local citizens filed more than 1.8 million dollars in riot related claims against the city, they did that by June of 1922. Now, despite the promise of funding, many people from the Greenwood community spent the winter of 1921 and 1922 in tents, as they worked to rebuild their neighborhood.
Oh yes, they were living in tents, set up by the Red Cross. Most of the promised funding was never raised for the residents, and they struggled to rebuild after the violence. They had little to no financial help. In order to continue rebuilding, a new fire code was said to be set in place, to prevent another tragedy from happening, and they were going to do this by banning wooden frame houses in place of the previously burnt homes. Now, because of this new fire code that was supposedly being set in place, it halted all construction and caused major delays.
So they weren’t even allowed to rebuild until this new fire code was set in place. So they’re just sitting, and waiting, and they keep putting it off, putting it off, putting it off, and they were doing that on purpose, because they wanted to take the land over. So, the Reconstruction Committee simply failed to formulate a single plan moving forward, which left many of the residents prohibited from rebuilding for several months, because it was going against the “fire code”. City planners though, they immediately saw the fire that destroyed homes, and businesses across Greenwood, as a really good thing.
They were like "Hey! Awesome! There’s a bunch of open land!". Because they had plans for this new land, okay? Showing a complete disregard for the welfare of affected residents. But they were like "Oh hell yeah". You know why? (sigh) Because they were making plans of their own, on what they wanted to do with the area. Plans were immediately made to rezone 'The Burned Area' for industrial use. The reconstruction committee wanted to have the black landholders sign over their properties, and less than two years later, a large central rail hub called the Tulsa Union Depot was built, where many of the homes and businesses destroyed used to be.
Now this is not a fact, but a personal opinion that I stand by, and truly believe. They were purposely blaming this "fire code" to prevent them from building in this area, because they knew, the white Oklahomians, they knew that they wanted to take this land over. And they didn’t want to give them 1.8 million dollars, so, they kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off, and eventually the people who were living in tents, trying to rebuild, they had no money, right? They had no homes. They were growing more and more exhausted, so they left.
And some of the landholders were offered a small compensation for their land, but it was said to not be much, y'know, like it... (hums in disagreeance) They had no option at that point. Because they had all this extra land now, it allowed for them to build an even larger train depot, because they just had so much extra space now. There were NO, zip, zada convictions for any of the charges related to violence when it came to the white rioters. Because the black community paid a big price, and a lot of them were detained. There were decades of silence about the terror, violence, and losses of this event.
The riot was largely omitted from local, state, and national histories. A woman by the name of Mary E. Jones Parrish, she was a young African American teacher, and journalist, from New York. She was hired to write an account of the riot. She was a survivor, and wrote about her experiences and collected other accounts, and experiences that people she knew. She gathered photographs and compiled "a partial roster of property losses in the African American community". She published these in "Events of the Tulsa Disaster", which was the first book to be published about the riot.
Many who tried to share their stories to local newspapers, city newspapers, town newspaper, wherever they could, encountered pressure, mainly by the white community, to keep silent, or they would take the story and do nothing with it. Five elderly survivors filed a suit against the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma in February of 2003. This suit said that the state and city should compensate the victims, and their families, to honor their admitted obligations, which was detailed in a commissions report. The federal district and courts dismissed the suit, citing the statute of limitations had been exceeded on the then 80-year-old case.
The state requires that civil rights cases be filed within two years of the event. The Supreme Court of the United States-- When you hear that "The Supreme Court of the United States", you kinda think like, "Oh, there’s hope! right?", The Supreme Court, I mean that’s major. Any who, well they failed the people, and they declined to hear the appeal. And this was in 2003, so I mean it’s not like it was back in 1921. So in April 2007, there was a push for U.S. Congress to pass a bill, that extended the statute of limitations for this particular case, given the state and city's accountability for the destruction, and the long suppression of material about it.
Now the bill would introduced, and heard by the Judiciary Committee of the House, but once again, it did not pass. They Re-introduced the bill in 2009, as the John Hope Franklin Tulsa-Greenwood Race Riot Claims Accountability Act of 2009, and then again, they re-introduced the bill in 2012, but It has not gotten out of the Judiciary Committee. It’s just sat there. It was named in honor of the late Dr. John Hope Franklin, who was a firsthand witness to the destructive impact that the riot had on the community. Dr. Franklin made numerous contributions to the understanding of the long-term effects of the riot on the people, and worked to keep the issue alive in history.
According to the State Department of Education, it has required the topic in Oklahoma history classes since 2000, and the incident has been included in Oklahoma history books since 2009, but it wasn’t required really, country-wide or anything to actually learn about it. So, a bill in the Oklahoma State Senate, requiring that all Oklahoma high schools teach the Tulsa Race Riot, failed to pass in 2012. The opponents, the people who were against this bill, claimed "Schools are already learning about this riot, we don’t need to make it a bill". And in November 2018, the 1921 Race Riot Commission was officially renamed the 1921 Race Massacre Commission.
Nearly a century later, in April of 2020-- Yes, in April of 2020! This happened in 1921, Tulsa plans to dig for suspected mass graves, in a city owned cemetery, that may have been used to dispose the victims’ bodies. (sigh) They believe that there’s a mass grave somewhere. There has to be. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much of a happy ending to this story. But my friends, that is the awful story about the Tulsa Race Massacre. What is owed this community 99 years later is a repairing, education, and economic incentives, something more than symbolic gestures, or an official report as an apology extended to the survivors.
It’s in the Oklahoma legislature’s hands and it has been for a long time. I’m sure we can both agree that this story is just absolutely horrific. And it’s a good example, for anyone out there who likes to say like "Well why didn’t they just start their community then and be successful?". 'Cause I’ve seen shit like that. And it’s like well they did. They did just that, and it was taken away from them. It was burnt to the ground, along with their families, their family members, their wives, their kids.
Destroyed. Taken from them. They were punished for succeeding. And this, the Tulsa
racemassacre, was just a small little bump in the road of racism, abuse, murder, and attacks that they have faced in this country. The Black Community during this time, they had just come back from World War I. They were serving a country, it wasn’t even their country. They went to war, fought for our country, came back home, and fought another war, And it’s like, nobody wants to acknowledge-- I’m sorry, not nobody. But a lot of people, don’t want to acknowledge this struggle that’s gone on for a long time.
As if their lives don’t matter. And I challenge you, to just learn some history. Read about the things that have been suppressed for a long time, like this. The 99th anniversary just passed, next year is going to be the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. I don’t know, I’ll try to think of a plan, like what can we do to help? I’m open to suggestions in the comment sections, I don’t know how to get like a bill passed or something. But I would love to have that to happen. These families deserve it.
If you were in their shoes, you would feel that way too. Come on! I hope this is all making sense, I’m being very careful with my words, because a lot of people can take this as a personal attack, and get very defensive, and that’s not what I’m trying to do, I’m just trying to have a conversation. We have to educate ourselves, and we have to do better! Thank you, guys, so much for hanging out with me today. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day. You make good choices. Please be safe out there, wear a mask, wash your hands, Try and stay sane.
Let me know who you want me to talk about next week. Actually, in my mind, I think I already know what I wanna talk about. Thank you so much to Hunt A Killer for partnering with me on today’s video. I’ll be seeing you guys next week. I won’t go missing on you. Be seeing you then. Thank you for the million subscribers. Yay! (claps) That’s so crazy! Bye! (suspicious music)