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by Francis Akhalbey, at 07:30 pm, June 01, 2018, History

The wealthiest black community in Tulsa was destroyed by a white mob on this day in 1921

On this day in 1921, one of the most horrible and racially motivated attacks on African-Americans occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Known as the Tulsa race riot, a white mob attacked and destroyed the properties of the black inhabitants living in Greenwood, which was at that time the most affluent African-American community in the United States. It was even known as the “Black Wall Street” as it was home to highly successful and profitable black-owned businesses.

The riot was spurred after a 19-year old black shoeshiner by name Dick Rowland was accused of raping a 17-year old white female elevator operator by name Sarah Page.

On May 30, 1921, Rowland entered the Drexel building, at 319 South Main Street to use the blacks only restroom which was on the top floor. The building had only one elevator which was being operated by Page at that time.

According to reports, Rowland accidentally slipped and fell on Page causing her to scream out of panic. A white clerk who witnessed the incident called the police who later on arrested Rowland and charged him with assault even though Page refused to press any charges.

The incident was reported by a white-owned local newspaper calling for his lynching. Rowland was processed and taken to court on May 31, 1921, however, tensions between the white mob who went to the courthouse to lynch Rowland and the black residents who were also around to ensure his safety escalated into a 24-hour-long armed confrontation.

Reports on the aftermath of the incident are varied but a recent investigation by the Tulsa Race Riot Commission reveals almost 300 lives were lost.

Below are more photos of the aftermath of the tragic incident.

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Photo Credit: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum

 

Keep in mind that Rowland was exonerated somewhere around September 1921 after Page formally informed the court of her decision not to prosecute him.

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