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A rare photograph from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, taken in June of ’21, displays an African-American concentration camp filled with women and children, corralled together and monitored by white guards during the racialized looting and mass killing of their relatives in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Some white Tulsans claimed that W.E.B. Du Bois himself was responsible for igniting the massacre and destruction of Greenwood, while others pointed to a Tulsa Tribune article that made false accusations about an African-American teenager named Dick Rowland’s encounter with Sarah Page, a white teen elevator operator, that sparked the violence of a white mob attacking the African-American prosperous town — beginning on May 31, 1921.

Du Bois believed that white developers, angered by the boycotting of a row of empty buildings that they built — with the intentions of leasing to African-American entrepreneurs and capitalizing off of their African-American town, were further fumed by a confidential air of Black Wall Street and what its people had achieved.

George Washington Buckner, an African-American physician and diplomat wrote an analysis in St. Louis Argus, on June 24, 1921, an African-American newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri alleging that the massacre was planned. Below is an excerpt of his 1924 write-up. 

Riot Victims are Neglected

Geo. W. Buckner

St. Louis Argus/June 24, 1921

Getting Very Little Help From Tulsa Citizens. Red Cross Only Organization Giving Aid. Gap Between Races Seems Wider Than At Any Time Since or Before The Brutal Massacre

Buckner Blames City Government
And White Hoodlums For Trouble

Says There Is Sufficient Evidence That Riot Was Planned. Looters Assembled After Bell Rings. Huge Trucks Cart Off Negroes’ Possessions. Airplanes Dropped Turpentine Balls. Big Clothing Company Planning To Move to St. Louis. 

Tulsa with sixty-four millionaires has been rated as the richest city per capita in the United States.

Even the Negro population boasted of caring for nearly all their wants. From the railroad station and a few thousand people to a brand new city of approximately 80,000 people in twenty years is the marvelous history of Tulsa. So fast did the city grow that it forgot all about citizenship, the very foundation for a successful city.

For years white hoodlums patronized dives operated in Negro districts under the protection of the law. I was told that fully 700 dope peddlers and over 200 “choc” joints openly did business in Tulsa. Corrupt practices and lawlessness of every description were accepted as an order of the day. The lower types of whites and blacks freely mingled. This, in brief, was the background of Tulsa, the modern Sodom, which gave to our country a new page in riot history on June 1st.

The Negro boy who stumbled upon the white elevator girl in the Drexel Building simply served to bring on the clash which had been gathering momentum during the past two years. 

In an effort to regenerate the city the present Mayor Evans, like the East St. Louis Mayor, Fred Mollman, was elected by the Negro vote. And in East St. Louis and Tulsa, the Negro suffered at the hands of a weak city government. I spent nine days in Tulsa covering white and colored groups ad it is my candid opinion that the blame for the riot should be placed on the weak city government and white hoodlums who made up their minds between midnight Tuesday and Wednesday morning to drive the Negroes from the town.

It is estimated that between five and seven thousand Negroes have left Tulsa. Between three and four thousand are still there sheltered in tents provided by the Red Cross and in the few remaining homes which the hoodlums passed by thinking the occupants were white, or the property owned by white people.

Riot Planned

There has been many questions as to whether or not the riot was planned. There has been sufficient evidence to indicate that it was, and it is a known fact that the whites carefully organized their plans before they made the attack.

At 5 o’clock on Wednesday morning the bell rang and the mob began to move in squads of six to fifty, ordering the men and women out of their houses in their nightclothes. They were sent to the Convention Hall. Huge trucks backed up and carted off all the valuable goods, even pianos and gas stoves. When everything valuable had been taken, one fellow would yell, “strik’er off boys!” Airplanes hovering near the Negro section and dropped turpentine balls upon buildings. So systematically did the mobbing squad moved that by 11 o’clock the whole Negro section had been razed to the ground with dead men and women lying here and there in the wake of a devastated section and thousands made homeless.


There has been a decided reaction in Tulsa since the riot. Aside from what the relief agencies, principally the Red Cross, have done, little consideration has been given to the Negro. The public Welfare Board, made up of a group of the leading citizens, and appointed at the request of the Adjutant general Charles F. Barrett, was dismissed by the city administration on the ground that it was dictating the policies of the city. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations were also ordered to vacate the City Hall on September 1st. Furthermore, before the embers of the burned district had cooled, propaganda had been sent afloat to turn the Negro district into an industrial section with no consideration given at all as to whether the Negroes desired it, or whether they would sell. This has indeed caused the most bitter reaction on the part of the leading Negro citizens. And up to the time I left Saturday night, the gap between the races seem wider than at any time since or before the riot.


The question of rehabilitation is now uppermost in the minds of the whites and blacks. So unified has been the spirit of the blacks to retain their property that the whites for the first time last Saturday invited them into conference. But most of the businessmen are as yet undecided as to just what they will do. I talked with Mr. Williams, the owner of the Dreamland Theatre. He stated he was ready to rebuild as soon as he was satisfied the people would say there. This seemed to have been the general feeling among the colored businessmen now in Tulsa. The firm of Elliott & Hooker will not re-establish business in Tulsa regardless of the outcome. Mr. S. D. Hooker, of that firm has recently visited St. Louis and in all probability, according to his conversation with me, will establish business here. This firm enjoyed a large patronage among the white people. The insurance value alone on the stock was $26,000.

Inter-Racial Committee

The inter-racial committee of Tulsa, organized by the representatives of the Southern Inter-racial Committee and myself, promise to render effective service in securing a larger industrial, economic and educational opportunities for the Tulsa Negro. It should be the means of creating a new community consciousness where its lack has been so notoriously conspicuous.

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The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...