Tulsa Riots Thesis

Pages: 5 (1639 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race

Tulsa Riots

"The next day when the riot was on, and after we had fled to safety further north, a person who was in the area described an armed, angry white mobster who stood in front of our house and snarled "Where is that uppity Nigger who was so bold yesterday?" If my father had still been in our house, he would surely have been killed by that hate-filled man."

Juanita Delores Burnett Arnold

Oil had been discovered in Tulsa, Oklahoma about 20 years after the start of the 20th century. That made it one of the post-WWI boom towns. It was also one of the strongholds of the Ku Klux Klan.

Dick Rowland, a shoe shiner and a black man, had been accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Guilt or innocence didn't matter. In that town and in that time, that's all it took -- an accusation that a black man had dare touch, let alone assault, a white woman. A crowd of whites collected at the jailhouse, and a group of black ex-war veterans rushed there to make sure one of their own was not lynched by an angry mob.

Shots rang out. No one to this day knows who fired them, but a full-scale war broke out in the streets of Tulsa. No, actually it was not a war. It was more like a slaughter as an enormous "army" of 10,000 whites -- backed up by the local police -- decided to cleanse the community of blacks and all their property. While white men killed every black they could find, the white women looted the black homes. After the looting was completed, the men came back and burned the houses and black properties.

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There were 3,000 dead blacks when it was over. And 1,200 of their homes had been destroyed. Over 600 businesses were lost. To top it all off, insurance companies refused to pay the blacks' fire claims because they decided to invoke a "riot exemption." The dead were hidden in mass graves, and the reason no one has ever heard of this horrible slaughter and riot is that even the newspaper accounts were expunged and destroyed. In other words, it never happened. No long-term evidence of it was left.

Thesis on Tulsa Riots Assignment

And Dick Rowland, the black man who had been jailed for assaulting the white woman? He was released when the white woman refused to press charges. It would take 80 years for the truth about the mob riot to find light and for reparations to begin.

Black Wall Street

Black Wall Street could be likened today to a mini-Beverly Hills. It was the proof that the Black community, during the early 1900s, could operate successful businesses and live happy, well-to-do lives. The main thoroughfare of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma is Greenwood Ave. It was crossed by Archer and Pine Streets. Many of the blacks owned farmland and many others had entered the oil business. It was a tight community and they helped each other out when needed.

It was one of the most affluent black communities in the country at the time.

There were Ph.D.'s, black attorneys and doctors. One doctor, Dr. Berry, owned the bus system. His average income at the time was about $500 a day. Six blacks owned their own planes.

As one can imagine after that description, it is easy to understand that one cause of the riots and slaughter that day in 1921, was jealous hatred of the blacks and their contentment, happiness, and wealth. When white men came back from WWI, most of them were poor. Then those in Tulsa looked over at this tight-knit black community which treated its black veterans as heroes and supported them...and the detonator was primed for an explosion. On June 1, 1921, the bomb went off.

What sense can possibly be made of the riots and mass killings of the Tulsa race riots of 1921? Can mere jealousy define it? There is no question that jealousy played the role described above. One must think it was many factors combined. The presence of the Ku Klux Klan, the attitudes throughout the U.S. At the time that blacks were inferior to whites certainly contributed.

And the high crime rate in the city as well as Tulsa law enforcement's tendency to look the other way defined a police force selective in their nature regarding who should be brought to justice for what reasons. And this enforced the city's "vigilante" reputation. Indeed, no one in the black community trusted that they were safe in the hands of the Tulsa police, as lynchings increased and the law did nothing, including part of the judiciary.

Then, as today, it was found that probably the single most important force in the creation of the mob that began the riot, was the media and its distortion and dramatization of the incident in which Dick Rowland was jailed for "molesting" a white female. In particular, the Tulsa Tribune, daily newspaper, reported an incident far removed from the actual events and thus stirred up anti-black sentiment in a way that instigated a lynch-mob mentality.

But, as we have discovered, though it was the local media who contributed to the formation of the mob, it was the long standing success and close-knit togetherness of the black "Greenwood Street" neighborhood that led to the bitterness, and, in the end, to the extreme and awful result of the murder of thousands of blacks on that single day. It was an "ethnic cleansing."

How the Afro-American Community Became Successful

Extraordinary is the fact that this black community returned to success after the riot. In that perhaps, lies the real story. Prior to the riot, we have discussed the wealth and the reasons for it -- the tightness of the community, the oil business, the support they gave each other. In addition, there was a factor that many consider, but that was equally as important as all the others:

"What was significant about Black Wall Street was they understood an important principle - they kept the money in the community. The dollars circulated 36 to 1000 times within the community, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Something the African America community of today does not fully appreciate or practice because a dollar will leave the Black community today in 15 minutes. This community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand-to-hand because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws."

In addition, education was a significant factor in the success of that community. Each and every child was educated. Why was it so important to them? Because the adults "got it" that education was the way out of poverty and despair. And it worked. When the black students of that community attended school, their parents made them wear "good" clothes; the boys wore suits and ties. What did this have to do with success? Because it was an outward sign of the morals and respect they were taught. and, finally, the wide use of "nepotism" -- favoritism shown to relatives -- enhanced the success of the community and formed the basis for a deep and continued attitude of helping one another. Parents passed down to their children the traditions, morals, and values they held so dear.

After the riot, the Tulsa Tribune printed yet one more denigrating article. When the editors found out that blacks planned to rebuild, they condemned the idea and, again, nastily spoke of the community.

What a surprise that the black citizens of Greenwood disagreed wholeheartedly with the sentiments of the Tribune. There was no way, in particular after what they had suffered, that they would allow anyone to dictate to them whether or not they might rebuild their lives.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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