A local author hoping to set the record straight on what led to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre will present readings from her new book at Tulsa’s Center for Public Secrets from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 23.
Determined to prove that it wasn’t a random event, but rather the culmination of white supremacist intentions, Author Kris Rose will share passages from her new zine, titled “White Riot/Black Massacre: A Brief History of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre”.
“All of the elements that created the circumstances for the massacre were very intentional and they had been going on for a long time,” Rose told The Black Wall St. Times.
Zine sets up racist environment ahead of massacre
Published by Microcosm Publishing, an independent press in Portland, OR, Rose hopes the work will help to illustrate how an environment of racist leadership set the stage for what would become the worst incident of racial violence in the nation’s history, when a White mob burned down 35 square blocks of Black Wall Street, destroying thousands of businesses and homes, and killing up to 300 Black residents of the wealthy Greenwood community.
For her part, Rose said she found out about the massacre as a 19-year-old outsider from Lee Roy Chapman, the founder of Tulsa’s Center for Public Secrets, which has published explosive and award-winning work centering around the Tulsa Race Massacre and other historic events.
Chapman, a legend among local leftists, gave Rose some books on the subject, though the weight of the words wouldn’t sink in until years later. As a woman with short hair, tattoos and a love for Punk Rock, Kris Rose said she always felt like an outsider, which helped her eventually relate to the Black community victimized by White rage.
An introduction to the massacre
Though there’s a plethora of books available on the subject of the massacre, Rose wanted to create an easy-to-read introduction for people who don’t fully understand it.
“So when I read more about the massacre, I was thinking I really wish there was something that was accessible to people that maybe wasn’t intimidating. A primer for people to get the idea of the mechanisms behind it so they would know that this wasn’t something that just happened out of nowhere,” Rose said.
The zine is only 64 pages at eight dollars per copy, a bargain for anyone looking to get acquainted with the history before diving deeper into it. Rose draws parallels between the atmosphere surrounding the disgraced, twice-impeached former president Donald Trump and the Wilson administration, which left office just before the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Comparing Trump presidency to Wilson presidency
“We saw callousness, cruelty and a denial of reality” under the Trump presidency, Rose said. She compared that to the overt racism of the Woodrow Wilson presidency. Serving his second term from 1917 – 1921, Wilson committed several acts to reverse gains Black Americans had made during the period known as Reconstruction directly after the Civil War. Wilson wrote a history textbook praising the Ku Klux Klan, reduced the number of Black Americans serving in federal positions, tolerated and encouraged Jim Crow, and most famously, screened the racist film “Birth of a Nation” at the White House, which led to the resurgence of Klan terrorism from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Tallahassee, Florida.
“So I try to set the stage for people and let them know that Oklahoma was always corrupt ever since statehood, and that it was set up to be a system that only worked for a powerful few,” Rose said.
But she wants people to do more than take in the information.
A catalyst for change
“I guess I would want them to have a reckoning that this isn’t over. This isn’t just something that’s in the past. This is something that’s still going on and it’s something that we can change.”
Despite national attention focused on the calls for justice from massacre survivors and descendants, Tulsa remains a city with extreme health, policing, and economic disparities between Black communities and their White counterparts.
Eventually, Rose hopes her work will help inspire people to take action.
“I feel that more working-class people should get involved in local politics and even run for office. I don’t think the people who inherited wealth without earning it are qualified to take care of all Oklahomans,” Rose said.
Light refreshments will be served at the upcoming public reading inside Tulsa’s Center for Public Secrets, located at 573 S. Peoria Ave.