Listen to this article here

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.

tulsa race massacre zine

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.

tulsa race massacre zine
Author Kris Rose

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

6 replies on “Local author highlights racist environment that led to Tulsa Race Massacre in new “zine””

  1. Again we see the “up to 300” fatalities listed as fact. After having read all the available accounts including eyewitness accounts I don’t feel confident in that assessment. Considering the total population of the Greenwood District and the length of the attack, to me this is a highly suspect. number. In fact this is a contemporary maximum given by the white community which would be inherently questionable. Yes, at the time they were bragging about the deed and the impetus may have been to exaggerate the number of the ‘enemy’ killed. But I would still like to see a scholarly examination of the literature and try to come up with our number of victims. I suspect a lot more than 300 were killed and died of injuries. All the reports of bodies in the river and several mass graves don’t add up right now.

    1. White accounts placed the deaths at 36. Historians from diverse backgrounds agree 300 is a more accurate number but you’re right, we may never know the full number.

    2. My zine uses about twelve or so different sources for the numbers of dead, both Black and white scholars and researchers used 300 as the estimated high mark, while some added the disclaimer that any number is unprovable at this point. I happen to agree with you that the number is probably much higher than 300, considering how many people lost touch with loved ones because of the limitations of communication at the time, added to the large numbers of residents who fled Tulsa never to return. Some might have assumed loved ones or friends left town for good when in reality they had been murdered and their bodies dumped, buried, or burned beyond recognition. Suffice to say, that the true toll on human life has been greatly underestimated for far too long, both in 1921 and at present.

  2. The depth of white hate and jealousy here was astounding!! No, we will never know how many blacks were murdered on May 31, 1921. Far more than the whites, I am quite certain. And in the end that white girl, Sarah Page, the alleged victim didn’t even want to press charges against Dick Rowland! I understand that Rowland survived and moved to Kansas City after this tragedy.

    1. According to Damie Roland (this is the spelling Dick Roland used when signing a Court docket) who was Dick’s adopted mother, Dick stayed with friends of Sarah’s in Kansas City when he first moved there. Sarah was a close friend according to Damie, and the two had known each other for awhile before the incident in the elevator. The Tulsa police had to track Sarah down and she then refused to press charges. The Renberg’s store employee was the one who notified the police. Renberg’s store took up the bottom two floors of the Drexel building.

Comments are closed.