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Tulsa Race Massacre letter donated to Historical Society

by Erika DuBose
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The Tulsa Historical Society recently received an authentic piece of Oklahoma’s shameful history: a personal letter written by an Enid man in 1921, describing the aftermath of the Tulsa Race Massacre. As first reported by News on 6, Thomas Sharp wrote a four-page letter that included information on his family and career before addressing the massacre of hundreds of Black men, women, and children.

Readers are cautioned that the letter is unflinching in its description of the aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The letter is dated June 28, 1921, less than a month after the genocide, which spanned May 31,1921, to June 2.

The letter was originally discovered over two decades ago, inside the wall of a New York home that was being renovated. A woman from Olean, New York, donated the letter, which she claimed was found by her brother, who has since died.

Nehemiah Frank and David McIntyre II

Nehemiah Frank (l.), teaches his cousin David McIntye II about the Tulsa Race Massacre in the Greenwood district on May 28.
BRANDON BELL/GETTY IMAGES

 

Letter reveals racist attitudes surrounding Tulsa Race Massacre

The Tulsa Historical Society took pains to verify the letter’s origins. The information provided by the donor went up against the United States Census Bureau, as well as the website findagrave.com in determining the veracity of the letter. 

The letter, which was donated in near-pristine condition, was found to be authentic. 

According to Tulsa Historical Society & Museum Executive Director Michelle Place, the letter “is gut-wrenching. It is absolutely horrifying. I would caution anyone who is interested in reading this: you need to be prepared.” 

In fact, the letter is so graphic that the donor considered throwing it away. However, in the end, she decided to keep it in the hopes that its contents “helps the world become a better place.”

For its part, the Tulsa Historical Society is holding nothing back, and providing the letter in its entirety online. Continued Ms. Place, “We are saying to the world, ‘We are holding nothing back.’ And so when a letter like this comes to us, there is no doubt, no hesitation on our part that we will make this, in all of its ugliness, available for others to learn by.”

Ultimately, the letter adds pressure on the city of Tulsa to provide reparations, as demanded in an ongoing lawsuit.

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