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Tulsa Race Massacre 100th Anniversary: About the Massacre

This guide serves as a digital exhibit, honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre and sharing the history of the event.

Tulsa Race Massacre

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma suffered the worst racial massacre in American history. Over the span of 18 hours, the neighborhood dubbed Black Wall Street was decimated by a mob of white residents, burning over 1,000 homes and businesses, destroying 35 square blocks. An estimated 300 people were killed, the vast majority of them Black, though an exact number and the location of their remains is unknown.

The Massacre was sparked after a young Black man Dick Rowland, was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a young white women in an elevator, though it is uncertain what happened. Best guesses are that Rowland either stepped on her foot by mistake or knocked into her when the elevator jostled. However, as accounts of the assault spread through white neighborhoods, the incident was increasingly exaggerated. Rowland was arrested, and, reflective of the growing sentiment in the city, the Tulsa Tribune, published an editorial remembered as “To Lynch Negro Tonight.” Black and white mobs confronted each other outside of the courthouse, and when a shot was fired, the city devolved into chaos. Greenwood was overrun by a white mob that looted, burned the community and killed its residents.

For timelines and recounting of the events, see below. Warning: Some of these resources include popular postcards from the time that depict the results of the Massacre, including the deceased.

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