Sarah Page, the young woman whose scream in the Drexel Building elevator has long been described as the incident which spurred the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, has been the focus of numerous stories over the years. However, her true identity was recently confirmed by attorney and historian Randy Hopkins for the Center for Public Secrets.
Born Sarah Beaver and known as Sarie, the woman who would become infamously linked with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was raised in Arkansas, near Oklahoma, with her parents and siblings. When Ms. Beaver turned 18, she married Robert Fisk, a 28-year-old man from Nebraska, although the two divorced two years later. She then married Raymond Page in 1920, although the pair also divorced soon after. Owing to that marriage, she was known afterwards as Sarah Page.
Following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Ms. Page’s character was called into question, with Tulsa Sheriff McCollough saying that “if half the charges alleged in the petition of her husband (Raymond Page) for divorce are true, she is a notorious character.”
Yet the truth was much less titillating. While in the Drexel Building elevator, Mr. Rowland stepped on Ms. Page’s foot, and the young woman let out a scream. She then used her purse to hit Mr. Rowland, who later admitted to grabbing Ms. Page’s arm. But the truth didn’t matter as much as the legend — that Sarah Page was sexually and physically assaulted by Dick Rowland.
Tulsa newspaper incited racist mob
The Tulsa Tribune, then the city’s main newspaper, reported that Sarah Page was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of Mr. Rowland. However, there was no evidence to back up the provocative headline, as Ms. Page’s only physical account was that of her damaged purse. The Tulsa Tribune later recanted the accusation, but the damage had already been done. Mr. Rowland became a wanted man, with white mobs eager to lynch the young man.
Meanwhile, Page never filed any charges against Mr. Rowland, and she denied the claims made by the Tulsa Tribune that her clothes were torn and she was scratched during the encounter. Yet once again, the truth didn’t matter.
Sarah Page lived quiet life after Massacre
In fact, Tulsa Police Chief John Gustafson cared less about the real story and more about finding an excuse for a lynching, following a notorious lynching the year before, of Mr. Roy Belton, who was taken from the Tulsa County Jail and murdered in a spectacular show that the police department tacitly affirmed.
The Police Department took the scandalous stories printed in both the Tulsa Tribune and the Daily World and obfuscated the truth, thus allowing for Mr. Rowland’s arrest and the mobs of white citizens to claim a right to hang him, resulting in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Page, meanwhile, never publicly commented on the sordid event, which left hundreds of Black men, women, and children dead, their bodies tossed into mass graves which have only recently been discovered. She later married Fred Voorhies, who was the superintendent of the building next door to the Drexel, and lived a quiet life until her death in 1967.
The story of Sarah Page is part two of The Black Wall St Time’s investigation into the truth behind the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The Black Wall St Times will continue reporting on this story, with thanks to Mr. Randy Hopkins, whose deep dive into the history of the event can be found at the Center for Public Secrets.