1921 Tulsa Race War originated on Monday, 30th May 1921, when a
19 year old Black shoe-shine-lad,
Dick Rowland, stumbled
against a white elevator operator when the elevator (lift)
elevator operator cried out
in pain. Frightened,
Dick Rowland ran off.
He was later arrested, held for questioning, and taken to
the gaol on the top floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse.
Richard Lloyd Jones (first cousin of the famous architect, Frank
Lloyd Wright), of The Tulsa Tribune maliciously printed
an inflammatory account of the elevator incident in the Tuesday
31st May 1921 edition of The Tribune.
In his falsified published account Richard Lloyd Jones deliberately lied when he
accused this Black youth of having scratch the elevator operator
and torn her clothes. In
his inflammatory front page feature story,
Richard Lloyd Jones accused Dick Rowland of 'attempted
rape' … which is the worst offence for which an American Black
can be accused.
Lloyd Jones also published an accompanying editorial entitled 'To Lynch a Nigger Tonight' --
which incited Tulsans to come to the Courthouse for a
'lynching bee'. (All
record copies of this lynching
this particular issue of The Tribune were later destroyed
to cover up Richard Lloyd Jones' personal
responsibility for inciting the 1921 Tulsa Race War.)
in the early afternoon business news edition of The Tribune
distributed solely in the commercial and office district of
downtown Tulsa, this lynching
editorial mobilised the entire business population of Tulsa:
of the Tulsa City Authorities to confiscated this lynching edition of
The Tribune to
prevent the unlawful assemblage called for in Richard Lloyd Jones' editorial
as required by State law re 22 O.S. §§101, 102, 104,
105, violated the
Federal constitutional and statutory rights of Dick Rowland
under 42 U.S.C.A. §1983.
response to The Tribune's editorial a huge howling lynch
mob coming directly from their downtown offices in business
dress gathered that afternoon and evening at the Tulsa County
Courthouse demanding with fire in their eyes that the Sheriff
hand the Black youth over to them for lynching. This was
the beginning of the 'Tulsa race riot'.
had occurred in previous Tulsa lynchings, the Police completely
abdicated their authority, refused
to disperse the lynch mob, and were, thus, tacitly
consenting to the prospective lynching
of this youth incited by The Tribune.
(Such Police collaboration in the lynching of
Blacks is common in the South.). Such
Police abdication of responsibility imposed by State Law
violated the Federal constitutional and statutory rights of Dick
Rowland, the innocent Black youth falsely accused by The
42 U.S.C.A. 1983.
the past year there had been a particularly notorious lynching
in Tulsa on 28 August 1920 in which the Tulsa Police Department fully
cooperated with a lynch mob in handing the accused
man, Roy Belton, over to the lynch mob without a fight.
The Tulsa Police then accompanied the lynch mob to the
site of the lynching where the Police directed traffic as at a carnival
-- so that all would have an opportunity to see the
1921 Oklahoma had a record of having 140 previous
lynchings -- most of whom were
racially oppressed Blacks or helpless Indians
-- by the
State's poor white majority
who had invaded Oklahoma during the Land Grab era of the
1890's and 1900's to seize 'free' Indian lands offered by the
Federal Government at the expense of Oklahoma's Indian
Tulsa's Greenwood Black district, Black World War One Veterans
organised themselves to prevent this lynching.
These Black Veterans had been front line
combat soldiers in France and were highly decorated by
the French, Belgian, and British Governments for battle field
heroism. Dressed in
their old army uniforms, these
Greenwood Veterans formed themselves into a troop of some 60 to
75 Black Veterans.
Greenwood Veterans were armed with weapons which the American
Government allowed them to keep after World War One as
Black Veterans repeatedly notified both the Tulsa Sheriff's
Office and the Tulsa Police Department that they would be
marching up from Greenwood (in north Tulsa) to the Courthouse
(in downtown Tulsa) for the specific purpose of offering a lawful
resistance under State law (21 O.S. §643(3); 22 O.S. §33; 6 Okla Law Review 231) sufficient (1) to
protect the Courthouse from the lynch mob, (2)
to prevent the lynching-murder of the Black youth
... (3) to
insure that Dick Rowland would live to stand trial of the false
charges brought against him by The Tribune.
The Tulsa Police Department was very noncommittal ...
about what they might do....
Greenwood Veterans repeatedly telephoned the Police that they
would be wearing their old World War One uniforms and
decorations in order to publicly evidence their intention to
uphold law, order,
and due process of law guaranteed constitutionally
to all Americans.