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Unforgettable Scenes from the Tulsa Race War

An angry black man named Anderson points a Winchester rifle barrel in Greenwood co-founder O. W. Gurley’s face and calls him a liar a few hours before the shooting breaks out, after Gurley tries to convince a large gathering of men in the community that white Sheriff Willard McCullough, with whom Gurley has just visited, will protect Dick Rowland, the young black man the group fears will be lynched.

* * *

Horn blaring and tires squealing, a Cadillac races down a Main Street teeming with people enjoying an evening out, swerves toward an armed black man who had left the courthouse shootout moments earlier, and a young white woman aims a shotgun out the window and fires, dropping the black man.

* * *

While the negroes were congregating at Second and Cincinnati about 10 o’clock, J. L. Wilson, a (white) day (police) patrolman came into town in a jitney (taxi) not knowing what the trouble was about. The negroes saw him and in an instant he found himself in the hands of the mob.

“That’s one of them. Let’s lynch him,” they shouted.

But a negro preacher who has been shining shoes in a stand near the police station threw his arms around Wilson and pleaded so earnestly for his life that they spared him.

Tulsa World

* * *

Police find a black baby stillborn hours before the holocaust began in a shoebox on a Greenwood sidewalk, his mother apparently interrupted before she could bury him.

* * *

Bill Williams reloads a rifle and a shotgun for his father John, the first African American in Tulsa to own an automobile, and a successful entrepreneur both before and after the 1921 conflagration, as John fires at approaching whites from his Greenwood bathroom window early the morning of June 1.

* * *

Col. L. J. F. Rooney and his National Guardsmen fight not just blacks, but many whites, and take casualties from both. One pitiable example is a young white man shotgunning a Guardsman on Standpipe Hill while the latter was attempting to protect white non-combatants from African American rifle fire.

* * *

“Oh lawdy, me, an old woman that has worked so hard all her life, and now everything is gone. My house burned, my clothes burned, my chickens burned. Nothing I have but the clothes on my back! Oh lawdy, that I should live to see such a day.” – Old black woman staying at the fairgrounds after the fire

* * *

Oklahoma Governor James Robertson quickly responds to reports of racial unrest. Before the fight begins, he orders Oklahoma National Guard Commanding General James Barrett to ascertain whether Tulsa city or county lawmen need help. Tulsa Police Chief John Gustafson, conspicuously ineffectual during the disaster, says no. After the battle erupts, Gustafson requests aid from local guardsmen. It takes Major Bryan Kirkpatrick of the Tulsa guard to request help from Barrett, which finally arrives the next morning after most of the destruction and killing have occurred or are in progress. Gustafson is soon removed from office for neglect of duty and convicted of involvement with an automobile theft ring.


The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.

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