Kerr saves a Greenwood man from lynching and a Tulsa Prodigal
Son from himself:
Dr. Kerr was ministering to the Greenwood refugees, Mrs. Kerr
was at the Old Manse: After
spending the morning ringing all of the First Presbyterian
Church Sunday school classes, ladies circles and charitable
groups to provide food, clothing, medical supplies, and bedding
for the Black refugees taking sanctuary in the First
of these women told
Mrs. Kerr that their husbands (who worked downtown) said that The
'To Lynch A Nigger Tonight' had mobilised the entire
downtown business community
into going to the Courthouse after work to lynch the Black youth
held in the top floor gaol.
This confirmed what the Greenwood Pastors had told Dr.
her telephoning, Mrs. Kerr found herself preparing dinner
in the Manse kitchen. Suddenly
she heard a terrific crash in the front hall of the Manse as a
bleeding, terrified Black man had crashed through the front door
screen. He had
slashes from head to foot from where he had been just
horsewhipped by Tulsa gunmen who were getting ready to burn him
alive while lynching him.
He begged Mrs. Kerr to hide him in Jesus' Name.
Kerr rushed him into the Manse kitchen, pulled out her laundry
tubs stored in the cabinet underneath the sink, and shoved the
Black man into the sink cupboard and ordered him to remain
silent no matter what
throwing the laundry tubs out the window, Mrs. Kerr returned to
peeling potatoes standing in front of the sink to protect the
terrified Coloured man hiding in the cupboard inside.
Mrs. Kerr thought of stories her own grandparents back in
Pennsylvania had told her of hiding runaway slaves on their way
to Canada in secret hiding places in their house as part of the
underground railroad chain before the Civil War.
Mrs. Kerr heard a loud pounding and yelling at the Manse door.
Six mean Oklahoma-type men with tattoos on their arms and
one young teenage boy stomped in.
They were carrying guns given to them by the Police to
hunt the Greenwood people, whips, and ropes.
Kerr introduced herself as a minister's wife and asked the
purpose of their visit. The
gunmen were surprised to learn whose wife she was, grudgingly
admitting that they had heard Dr. Kerr preach 'at onetime or
coarse jug-ears common amongst Oklahomans of this type, the
gunmen said they were looking for 'a dirty black nigger who ran
down this a-way'. They
claimed that, 'we waz just gettin' ready to take that Nigger
down to Convention Hall, when this Nigger bolted and ran off.
Don't think that Nigger rightly
felt he could trust us'ns.'
the common sense to believe the exact
opposite of what any Tulsan had to say about Black people,
Mrs. Kerr looked about the kitchen and diplomatically said,
''Well, I do not see anyone here. I am busy preparing Dr. Kerr's
dinner. However, you
are free to search the Manse'.
of U. S.
the Tulsa gunmen stomped off to ransack the Old Manse for their
prey, with his straw hat looking like Tom Sawyer out on an
escapade, the teenage boy of about fourteen stayed behind to
question Mrs. Kerr about Dr. Kerr's oratorical skills:
He had heard Dr. Kerr at the Courthouse the previous
night disperse the lynch mob by threats of Hellfire.
Smoking a cigarette to prove his manhood the boy perched
himself on a high stool in the Manse kitchen
like Tom Sawyer might in Aunt
Polly's kitchen. Mrs.
Kerr said that she felt like boxing his ears
… just like
Aunt Polly would. However,
she told him that Dr. Kerr had acquired his preaching skills
through a detailed knowledge of the Bible and the applicable of
biblical principals to concrete situations.
up the boy, Mrs. Kerr invited him to come to Dr. Kerr's church
where he could further experience Dr. Kerr's oratory and learn
about the Bible and Christian living slyly adding that we have a
Junior Christian Endeavour group having 'lots of pretty girls
who are just about your own age'.
The boy showed immediate interest adding that his mother
might like him to become a Christian.
peeling potatoes at the Manse kitchen sink hiding the Black man
hidden underneath, Mrs. Kerr asked, 'What is a nice boy like you
doing playing with guns?' The
boy answered that the Tulsa Police had given them special
commissions making them 'Emergency Police Deputies',
guns and ammunition and told them to go to Greenwood to
shoot the Black population and put them in their place.
As the boy had been deer hunting with his father, he
thought it would be great fun to shoot a Black man as a trophy.
This is the common attitude amongst Tulsans towards Black
Mrs. Kerr asked the boy if he ever heard the story of
Noah's Ark. When the
boy nodded 'yes', Mrs. Kerr said that Noah had three sons: White
people are descended from one son;
Black people from a second son;
and Asian people from a third son.
All these sons from a common father are brothers, and
because mankind is descended from a Common Father in Heaving,
shooting one of the Father's sons is different from shooting a
deer. It is
the shooting of a brother.
Mrs. Kerr asked the boy to bring her some more potatoes from the
pantry explaining, 'We are expecting a Christian Friend
distant relative, in fact --
for dinner tonight'.
Beginning on her new batch of potatoes, Mrs. Kerr asked
the boy if he had ever learned the Ten Commandments in Sunday
School. When the boy
answered 'yes', Mrs. Kerr shrewdly asked,
'Let's see how well you know them:
What, for example, does the Sixth Commandment say?'
the boy correctly answered, 'Thou shalt not kill',
Mrs. Kerr judiciously asked if that might apply to the
Greenwood people? The boy said nothing.
Mrs. Kerr then asked whether the Sixth Commandment might
apply to the Black man he and his friends were looking for?
The boy just looked away.
Mrs. Kerr then asked if they were really planning on
taking that Black man down to Convention Hall as a prisoner.
Slowly, the boy admitted that they had some 'other plans'
for that man.
Kerr remarked that was exactly what she thought also.
She then asked how such 'plans' might square with the
Sixth Commandment, what Jesus might think about such 'plans',
and how the use of guns square with the Sixth Commandment?
The boy sheepishly admitted 'Not very much'.
man hidden under the Manse kitchen sink escaped this fate
him a home-baked oatmeal and raisin cookie, Mrs. Kerr demanded,
'If you know Jesus doesn't like guns and that guns violate the
Sixth Commandment, then, Son, why do you have that rifle in your
the boy answered that, 'Guns give a man real power.'
this boy was so concerned with manliness,
Mrs. Kerr responded, 'I know a real man, a mighty
powerful man, a brave Christian man, a man so strong in God's
Word that he has no use for guns.
Last night armed with only a Bible,
this man alone faced
down a howling crowd of thousands of armed men and boys at the
their guns were no match for the moral strength of this real
man. They knew this
mighty, powerfully strong man armed with only the Revealed Word
of God was right, and that they
were all wrong.
This man was so powerful that that at the end they all
ran away from him --
like cowardly little boys.
This mighty man over powered every last one of them
... and saved a poor Freedman's life.
Son, I think you know who this real man is !'
boy gulped, 'You mean Dr. Kerr ?'
Kerr replied that he lives in this very Manse. She asked the
boy, 'Son, who is stronger:
The armed white men of
Tulsa or Dr.
Kerr?'. The boy admitted, ''I reckon Dr. Kerr is
saw it all myself last night at the Courthouse.
We all left because of what he said.'
as a fox, Mrs. Kerr declared,
'Dr. Kerr gets his strength from Jesus.
Along with strength, Jesus also offers forgiveness to all
who ask for it. I
don't suppose you might know of a boy who just might need some
forgiveness from Jesus for all the bad things he did in
Greenwood last night?'
his rifle against the Manse kitchen wall,
the boy smiled, 'Yes, I do know such a boy!'
So, Mrs. Kerr
led him in a long prayer of forgiveness.
After which the boy turned over his share of money,
jewellery, gold coins, and other valuables which he and the
gunmen stole from the Greenwood homes before burning them.
(Mrs. Kerr gave these valuables to one of the Greenwood
Pastors whose church had been arsoned
by the City of Tulsa.) Mrs.
Kerr observed, 'The only purpose served by a gun is to shoot
your neighbour --
he is Coloured!'
Kerr always said
that the widespread ownership of guns by poor white Tulsans was
responsible for the mass slaughter of the Greenwood people
during the Race War. She
felt that guns needed to be registered much as are automobiles,
and that licences to use guns needed to be given by state
authorities upon passing safety tests similar to drivers
licences. Mrs. Kerr
felt that gun ownership in large urban areas must to be
prohibited to protect Blacks from poor white racialist
this point the Tulsa gunmen came trooping back into the Manse
kitchen. They had
searched the entire Manse, even the coal bin:
No Black man was to be found anywhere. Noticing that the
screen on the window was hanging half-off,
the gunmen surmised that the Black man had jumped out the
window and was now long gone:
'One lucky nigger !' was their verdict.
gunmen and the boy left in different directions.
The latter putting his gun in a trash barrel.
The boy started coming to the First Presbyterian Church,
joined Junior Christian
later that summer at Dr. Kerr's
annual revival came and sat in the mourner's bench [for
repentant sinners] following
Dr. Kerr's powerful altar call to 'All ye that are weary
and heavily burdened, come I will give ye rest'.
That teenage boy was the only Tulsan who ever repented of his racial
crimes in Greenwood.…
dinner that night with the Kerr family, that Greenwood man burst
into tears of thankfulness, 'Especially, Lord, for not being burnt
alive by Tulsans before getting lynched!’
Dr. and Mrs. Kerr kept the Greenwood Black man in the
guest bedroom of the Manse until it was safe for him to leave.
Mrs. Kerr later commented that cowboy Oklahomans
frequently burned Blacks alive before lynching them.
after learning that well dressed Tulsa women had stole the
clothing of that Greenwood man's teenage daughter before burning
their house to the ground, the 16-year old Margaret Kerr donated
the new clothes which she had bought with money earned in an
their marriage Dr. Kerr had agreed to give Mrs. Kerr all of his
wedding fees, which according to the custom of the time were
paid in gold coins. For
several years Mrs. Kerr had been saving these gold coins for an
elaborate grandfather clock.
However, after wrestling with her conscience, Mrs. Kerr
donated her sack of gold coins to the Greenwood man for the
rebuilding of his house arsoned by the City of Tulsa:
How many other
Tulsans replaced the Greenwood homes which they had maliciously
to suppress as city policy a fictitious
fabricated by the City Government as an official
clear out Greenwood for the rail switchyard, industrial supply,
and warehouse district
long desired by Tulsa's civic leadership ?