A hysterical white girl related that a nineteen-year-old colored boy attempted to assault her in the public elevator of a public office building of a thriving town of 100,000 in open daylight. Without pausing to find out whether or not the story was true, without bothering with the slight detail of investigating the character of the woman who made the outcry (as a matter of fact, she was of exceedingly doubtful reputation), a mob of 100-per-cent Americans set forth on a wild rampage that cost the lives of fifty white men; of between 150 and 200 colored men, women and children; the destruction by fire of $1,500,000 worth of property; the looting of many homes; and everlasting damage to the reputation of the city of Tulsa and the State of Oklahoma. -- Walter F. White, "The Eruption of Tulsa," The Nation, June 29, 1921

If the Sacco-Vanzetti Case was "the never-ending wrong," as writer Katherine Anne Porter put it, the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 was seldom even remembered until recently. Its hundreds of victims were not commemorated in poems or novels or operas. Indeed it is only within the last decade that historians have begun to examine what happened and why. The state of Oklahoma appointed a Commission whose Report goes a long way toward rescuing the riot from oblivion. To read the report you will need Adobe® Acrobat Reader, which you can download here. The heart of the report is Scott Ellsworth's essay, pp. 37-102. It is a carefully researched and judiciously phrased account. Future president of the National Association of Colored Peoples Walter F. White's contemporary account in The Nation is also a highly useful source. Department of Special Collection, McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa has put nearly 100 photographs of the riot online. At right is a photo of a handful of the thousands of white Tulsans who invaded the Greenwood section of the city, drove out the black residents, and burned the entire area to the ground. Most of the white invaders were on foot, but some drove through the neighborhood shooting at passersby and into houses. Still others used private planes to fire from the air. Blacks resisted as best they could. There were several "fire fights" in which about fifty whites died. Perhaps as many as 200 African Americans died. Many hundreds more were arrested and placed in "protective custody."

One can use the Tulsa Riot as a jumping-off place to study the explosion of racial violence in the years surrounding World War I.