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Raceriot bf tour

Photo: The Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.

The Tulsa Race Riot Historical Tour

Dubbed America's "Black Wall Street" by Booker T. Washington, the 35-block Greenwood District, Tulsa’s African American community, became a prosperous center for black commerce in the early 1900s, housing more than 300 black-owned businesses including hotels, theaters, restaurants and much more.

But in less than 24 hours the prosperity of the area darkened, forever changing the thriving landscape of the Greenwood District. On May 30, 1921, an elevator encounter between two teenagers, one black, the other white, lit the fuse that set the neighborhood alight. Dick Rowland’s alleged assault of Sarah Page triggered unprecedented civil unrest. Fueled by sensational reporting, jealousy over black economic success and a racially hostile climate in general, mob rule held sway.

Law enforcement officers deputized some of the white assailants. Mobs prevented firefighters from extinguishing the flames. People, property, hopes and dreams vanished. The Greenwood District burned to the ground. Property damage ran into the millions. Lives were lost. Scores lay injured. The assault on the Greenwood District left many African Americans homeless and destitute. Some fled Tulsa, never to return.

Against the odds, black Tulsans regrouped and rebuilt. The Greenwood District rose up from the ashes. During the years, a host of social, economic and political factors shaped the community’s fortunes. Even today, the legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot looms large in Tulsa.

Source: Greenwood Cultural Center