|A dead African American man lies on flatbed truck, as one of the deputized rioters stand guard with a shotgun. |
Once upon a time there were no rape kits to prove a rape occurred. The White woman's word was the pronouncement of guilt, punishable by death. Angry White men killed and destroyed Black communities and residents at will, knowing they would not be jailed or prosecuted for crimes committed, even if there were dozens of witnesses, none of whom would dare come forward to testify for fear of reprisal. History suggests that lynchings, and accusations of raping White women by Black men occurred mostly in southern states.
A few years later mob violence destroyed a thriving Black city within a city in Oklahoma. The year was 1921. Some historians said Whites were jealous of the successful Black owned businesses and the thriving Black community. They wanted a reason to destroy Oklahoma's Black Wall Street, better known as Tulsa's Greenwood District.
Dick Rowland, a young African American teen was the keg of dynamite that ignited the destruction and mayhem in Tulsa, and the subsequent burning down of the Greenwood District.
Hannibal B. Johnson, author of Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa's Historic Greenwood District, wrote: "In the loss of over 700 homes and 200 business houses the Negroes of Tulsa have sustained a loss of over four million dollars. Two of the finest hotels that the Negro own in America went up in smoke. The Welcome Grocery Store carried as large a stock of groceries as did any retail white store in Tulsa. Mrs. Williams, who owned the Dreamland Theatres in Tulsa, Muskogee and Okmulgee, was perhaps the one of the foremost Negro business women in the United States.
"She has one of three-story brick businesses on Greenwood, which housed her big confectionery and other floors were used for offices for the professional men of the race. Farther down the street was her theatre, the pride of the Negros of the city. The street had located on it three drug stores and two newspaper plants. The Tulsa Star had a plant worth fully $15,000. Fully 150 business houses lined this street alone, that required Negro traffic officer to stand in the streets all day long, directing the busy activities."
This bustling African American community included two school, Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Booker T. Washington, two newspapers, three fraternal lodges, a hospital, two theaters, a public library, 23 churches and a bank. White rioters targeted the businesses and homes they looted and burned down.
Historian tells who Dick Rowland was
What precipitated the Oklahoma race riot
At about 10 p.m. a false rumor hit Greenwood that Whites were storming the courthouse. This time, a second contingent of African American men, perhaps seventy-five in number, went back to the courthouse and offered their services to the authorities. Once again, they were turned down. As they were leaving, a White man tried to disarm a Black veteran, and a shot was fired. The riot was on.” (Oklahoma Historical Society)
"Governor Robertson declared martial law, and National Guard troops arrived in Tulsa. Guardsmen assisted firemen in putting out fires, took imprisoned blacks out of the hands of vigilantes and imprisoned all Black Tulsans not already interned. Over 6,000 people were held at the Convention Hall and the Fairgrounds, some for as long as eight days. Twenty- four hours after the violence erupted, it ceased. In the wake of the violence, 35 city blocks lay in charred ruins, over 800 people were treated for injuries and estimated reports of deaths began at 36." (Oklahoma Historical Society)
Although Rowland was exonerated of the rape charge, an all-White grand jury blamed Blacks for the riot. Despite overwhelming evidence, no Whites were ever sent to prison for the murders and arson that occurred during the riot.
|A lone Greenwood resident walks among the burned ruins, observing the willful destruction of his once thriving Black Wall Street community. |
|One of many charred bodies of African American residents who were incinerated during riot.|
|Little girls carries her sister or brother after the riot.|