Ep. 10: Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Despite potentially thousands of potential perpetrators of numerous crimes and potentially hundreds or thousands of witnesses to these crimes, law enforcement officials did not pursue any of them with any real vigor in search of the truth. As a result the victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre never got their justice.
The life of one of the victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is an example of the consequences of these actions - or lack thereof by law enforcement officials in Tulsa and Oklahoma. That man, born John the Baptist Stradford, was born a slave in Kentucky. Stradford was a graduate of Oberlin College and Indiana Law School. The J. B. Stradford family moved to Tulsa, OK, in 1899. J. B. became one of the richest African American's in Tulsa. Stradford became known as one of the pioneers of Tulsa. He owned the Stratford Hotel located at 301 North Greenwood. Following the Tulsa Race Massacre, Stradford was one of the few people charged in connection with the attack. He ultimately fled Tulsa and moved to Chicago where his son was living and working as an attorney. He lost just about everything he had in the Massacre. Although he owned several businesses in Chicago, he never amassed the amount of wealth he had in Tulsa. Additionally, the charge hung over him for the rest of his life. In 1996 Stradford was posthumously cleared of the charge of rioting thanks to years long efforts by his descendants.
Featured guests in this episode listeners will hear from J.B. Stradford's great-great-granddaughter, Laurel Stradford as well as his great-great grandson, Nate Calloway. Listeners will also hear from Tulsa World Reporter and Author of Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre, Randy Krehbiel.
Tulsa World Reporter and author Randy Krehbiel
“The only person who ever paid any kind of price for it, other than the people that were killed and the people who lost their property. But in terms of being held accountable, the only sort of held accountable was the police chief. Now all the people, all the elected officials from the city, the mayor and the city commission, and you know all of those people were defeated in the next election. So, you know and that was probably why. But in terms of any kind of legal, in court held accountable, no." ~Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World Reporter and author.
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in partnership with the Tulsa race massacre, Centennial commission. I'm Nia clerk. And this is black wall street, 1921.
when a crime is committed. If there is one or even several witnesses, you might think in most cases be account of that I witness, or those witnesses can be used as evidence against the perpetrator of the crime. And you would probably be right to think. So when there are thousands of witnesses to an untold number of crimes, You might think that prosecutors would have a lot of slam dunk cases.
Eye witness testimony can be some of the strongest and most damning type of evidence. There is when a case is being litigated. What better way to demonstrate the facts of an event than through the eyes and mouth of someone who actually witnessed it? But what if one witness let alone thousands of witnesses to potentially thousands of crimes refuse to testify?
What if they refuse to come forward in the first place to confess that they indeed even witnessed a crime? Well, in the absence of surveillance or cell phone, video, body cameras and advanced forensic technology, not having witness testimony can make it really difficult to prove a case. It would make it difficult to even bring charges against a suspect or suspects.
But what if prosecutors understand a crime or a number of crimes were committed? They know there are potential witnesses and they know there is other type of evidence to substantiate the theory that a crime was committed. What if these prosecutors decide not to investigate said crime? What if they decide to look the other way?
And what if they leave the victims of that crime with no real recourse with which to seek justice? The hypothetical scenarios I just described are essentially what happened in the so called. Search for justice. Following the talks, the race massacre of 1921, there were thousands of potential perpetrators of numerous crimes and potentially hundreds or even thousands of witnesses to these crimes.
Yet law enforcement officials did not pursue any of them with any real vigor in search of the truth. As a result, the victims of the Tulsa race massacre never got their justice. We'll discuss that a bit later for now. Let's explore one example of the consequences of these actions by law enforcement officials in Tulsa and Oklahoma using the life of a man named J B Stratford, according to the university of Kentucky libraries, notable Kentucky African-Americans database quote.
Stratford was born a slave in Versailles, Kentucky, the son of Julius Caesar Stratford, J B stands for John the Baptist, the JB Stratford family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1899. JB was a graduate of Oberlin college and Indiana law school. He and his wife Augusta had lived in. Several cities, including Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, before settling and Tulsa, JB became the richest African-American in Tulsa via his rooming house rental properties and the largest African American owned hotel in the United States in inquiry.
Just an aside. This is referencing the 65 room Stratford hotel located at three Oh one North Greenwood in closeup. The passage goes on to say, quote, he initiated the development of Greenwood, otherwise known as the black wall street by 1920, the political racial and economic times were on a downward turn in Tulsa on May 30th, 1921.
A story circulated that an African American man had assaulted a white woman, and there were rumors of a lynching the next day, whites and African-Americans armed themselves and met outside the Tulsa County courthouse. A scuffle led to an exchange gunfire at the beginning of the infamous Tulsa race riot.
All 35 blocks of Greenwood were burnt to the ground. It was one of the worst riots in the nation's history, 20 African American men, including JB Stratford were indicted for starting the riot. Stratford jumped bail and left Tulsa. He later became a successful lawyer in Chicago. In 1996, the charges were officially dropped against Stratford in court.
That was a very simplified version of Stratford's life. So we're going to take a little bit of a deep dive into it. Now the charge specifically referred to for Stratford here would be the charge of writing when it says they were dropped in 1996. The passage is referring to years long effort by Stratford's descendants to get his name cleared.
And after 75 years, the charge of writing was formally dismissed from JB Stratford's record and I've Tober of 1996 at a celebration at the Greenwood cultural center in Tulsa, according to a Tulsa world newspaper article. About the event called quote cloud to be lifted from right victim in quote dated October 9th, 1996 in his memoir Stratford recorded the events leading up to the massacre.
Stratford wrote that he went to the courthouse on the evening of May 31st because he posted. Wanted to try to stop a riot, which was obviously building up in quotes because he was a person well trained in the law and concepts and principles of the law. He thought he could help. However, his presence at the courthouse ultimately led to the charge against him at the time of the 1996 ceremony.
Then district attorney, bill LaFortune said that in the state of Oklahoma versus will Robinson, one of the cases initiated by a grand jury and panel to investigate the riot. Dozens of black men, including Stratford were charged with writing. Stratford's memoir says he was arrested and later bailed out by his son who was a lawyer working and living in Chicago at the time because he feared for his life, Stratford, black Tosta and everything.
He owned go to Chicago. His hotel had been destroyed along with dozens of black businesses while Stratford did rebuild some of his wealth and owned several Chicago businesses. The charge of writing hung over him until he died in 1935, 14 years after the riot at the age of 75, according to the book black wall street by Hannibal Johnson on October 18th.
1996, then Oklahoma governor Frank Keating issued an executive pardon for JB Stratford and proclaimed that day. Quote JB Stratford day Strafford had been posthumously admitted to the bar of the state of Oklahoma as well. Speaking of that ceremony at the Greenwood cultural center in Tulsa to celebrate the formal dismissal of the charge from Stratford's record, here's a recording of the ceremony when one of the presenters read a proclamation to Stratford's.
Great, great, great granddaughter, Peggy as her family. Stratford's descendants. Sat in the audience, the ceremony was recorded by J K, then Ross of the green with trivia.
I have a few sentences of the JV strapped with bam. Whereas James Frederick of Kentucky entrepreneur attorney, and the owner of 65 along with other opportunities was a part here of the queen with Eric and whereas infamous. Total for race riots of 1921 claimed the strategy along with 35, where residents and businesses located in the black wall of America.
And whereas babies strapped for inciting a riot and later three on bell. Through the help of his sons, the friends, the stretchers, and whereas while awaiting trial and a friend with his wife, JV Stratton travel, why not from Tulsa? Never to return. And whereas Jamie's strapping, maybe this home and Chicago, Illinois, and established himself as, and whereas JB moved to Chicago was a loss for Houma and especially the black wall street district.
And now therefore, emotional center to Maxine Horne and representative McDonald off district. The Oklahoma state legislature. Well, the descendants of Jamie Stratford and directs, but this citation B.
This is fine.
Not to speak more about the life of Stratford. I've invited several of his descendants first. We're going to hear from his great, great grandson, Nate Calloway.
So Nate, can you just tell me what your relation is to JB Stratford and. Where you were and what your reaction was when perhaps you were very young, you first learned about your family's involvement in the Tulsa race massacre. Sure. My name is Nathaniel. Oh, Calloway. My friends call me Nate. I am the great, great grandson of JB Stratford.
You know, it's, it's a story that we've known our entire lives. So I don't ever remember there being a moment where we were shocked to find any of this out, but history is more than names and dates and places. It's it's, it's in your blood, it's under your fingernails, so to speak. So it's just something that's always been a part of me.
Your actual situation is. Very unique because most of the survivors never talked about their experience. And if they did, they didn't talk about it until later in life. And therefore many of their descendants had no idea about their involvement in the massacre as well. But so your family's story is unique because you've always known and perhaps it was because of the unusual circumstances.
Surrounding your great, great grandfather. So can you, from your perspective, tell me what you know about him, his involvement in the massacre, and then simply what happened after he left Tulsa. Jamie may not have spoken about it very much while he was alive. I don't know. People tend not to speak about traumatic events that happened to them, but I think the reason we know about it is because he left unpublished memoirs behind.
So it was the later generations that kept the story alive, but JB was very outspoken. He was, he stood up for justice. He didn't, he obviously didn't take discrimination sitting down. There was a story of JB traveling on the train from Kansas to Tulsa, and he had bought a first class ticket for him and his wife.
And when they arrived at the Oklahoma border, A conductor came into the rail car and told them that they needed to move to the segregated rail car. JB refused to move and long story short when they arrived in the first stop in Oklahoma, he and his wife were arrested and taken off the train. So that's the type of person that JB was.
He was involved in politics when he was in Greenwood, he helped to get many of the city officials, white city officials elected because he was in charge of his district. And after they were elected, they passed segregation, laws, and JB called them out on it. There are other stories of them getting into physical altercations with people.
There's a story of him walking down a sidewalk one day. And he was told by the person whose house he was walking in front of that he don't want him walking in front of his house. JV told them that it was a public sidewalk and he could walk wherever you wanted. The man threw a brick at him and hit him in the head.
And JB gotten a physical altercation with him and started to beat the man quite severely. And the man's wife came out and begged him to stop. He continued to walk by that same sidewalk on a regular basis, and the guy didn't give him any more problems after that. So I'm just trying to paint a picture as to the type of person that JB was.
So when the massacre took place, he was already well known for being somebody. Who had ruffled a few feathers. He was liked by many, but for people in the Tulsa area who thought that blacks should rise above their station, so to speak JB, wasn't very well liked. Well, let me just ask one thing, JB, at least from what I've read, he was part of the contingent of folks, black men who went to the courthouse to see about Dick Roland, to try to stop the massacre.
Is that your understanding of what he was doing there? There are different accounts of exactly what happened. I know there were several trips by different groups of people to the courthouse. I don't think we'll ever know for certain exactly what happened. He was called by sheriff McCullough. Because sheriff McCullough was relying on JB too, to try and I guess, quell the uprising, if you will, you know, as to whether or not JB actually was at the courthouse, when that first shot rang out.
I do not know. I do know that he went to the courthouse at one point because he was summoned there, but he was assured by sheriff McCullough that everything was going to be okay. So then he left and he went back to his hotel. And so did he stay in his hotel until writers came to loot at and burn it down?
Yeah. That's, that's exactly what happened. He stayed in his hotel. He was determined to keep it intact and not let anyone destroy it or burn it down. He fended off several assaults on the hotel, but finally, I guess the national guard arrived and assured him that. His hotel was going to be okay. And as soon as they removed him and his wife from the hotel writers and looters pulled all the furniture out of there, looted it and then set it on fire.
Something else that contributed to JB being indicted on charges is because this hotel was strategically placed at such a spot right across the Frisco tracks, where people were fending off the descending mob. From the top of his hotel. So he writes in his memoirs that that's one of the reasons why he was singled out.
So how soon after the massacre did he, did he flee tell us about his family? I assume. Yeah, his children. Yeah. Most of his children were already grown, so they weren't in Tulsa. At the time he left Tulsa, him and his wife left quite literally under the cover of darkness. They slipped out of the holding, I guess, the internment camp, whatever you want to call them with the help of.
A friend and got into a car and drove away from Tulsa the same night. You mentioned that your great, great grandfather was actually aided with his escape from Tulsa vise, some of his white. Friends people he knew in the community. Yeah, that's true. So in order to get out of the internment camps, they had to be sponsored by somebody who had been given a badge.
So he approached several people. Asking them, if he could get him and his wife out of there, one of the individuals said that they could, but because he's, you know, people are after him, so to speak, it's going to be difficult for them to be able to sneak him out. He finally found somebody who was willing to take the risk to get him out.
So they quite literally backed the car down an alley. He slipped out the back door, got in the car, laid on the floor. And he was driven out of town. And his wife, what happened to her, his wife, he and his wife for, you know, they're going out of town with the aid of this individual. It's interesting. He went to stay with his brother in independence, Kansas after the rights.
And that's when they issued an order for his arrest. And in fact, they came to physically get him from independence, Kansas, but they didn't have extradition papers. So they asked him if he would return to Tulsa and he said he would not. So the police left and ultimately he ended up going to Chicago.
Where his son lived. So he went to independence, Kansas. First. He arrived in independence, Kansas, just a few days after the massacre. And then from there, he went to Chicago and that's where his son was. His son was already an established attorney in Chicago when he arrived there. Right. Correct. Okay. So even though he wasn't so lucky, he was kind of lucky because he had some place to go and he got away, I guess, from those who were after him.
So he was indicted and the charge just stuck for decades. How did the effort to exonerate him kind of out? Well great-grandson judge Cornelius tool made it his life long work. So he was exonerated officially in a ceremony by then governor Keating. I believe it was 1996 in a ceremony. So posthumously obviously.
But it took decades and a lot of hard work by our family, particularly at my uncle Cornelius tool to get them exonerated. What is it like living with the knowledge that your great great grandfather was a pioneer in Tulsa, had a mast and amount of wealth. Most black people had never seen it in lifetime, certainly for the early part of the 20th century.
And had it all taken away in less than 24 hours. What do you think about when you think about what he could have become and what he could have continued to build? Yeah, there's, there's no doubt that I had the massacre not taking place. So he would have continued to amass a larger amount of wealth. And perhaps that wealth would have been handed down from generation to generation, no different than Goodyear tire or JW Marriott or something like that.
But I think his greatest legacy was the fact that he was educated himself. He made sure that all his children got an education. And I think that type of positive legacy. Gets handed down the same way wealth gets handed down and in many respects it's much more important. So although it gives me pause in it, when I think to myself, what could have been, and it's obviously very painful piece of history, I'm also proud.
I'm proud that he was so progressive. I proud of the fact that he was such a fighter for injustice. And I think he instilled that in his children and his children instilled that in their children and so forth and so on. So again, it was a tragic event, but I'm filled with pride. When I think about what he did for his community and his, his legacy lives on.
And I don't it's. I think justice will prevail. Eventually I would say 20 years ago, very few people knew about the Tulsa massacre. Now lots of people know about it. And it continues to sort of bubble to the surface. So his story, his story, and the story of the other victims and survivors will be told your family seem to weather the storm much better.
And I wonder if that has to do with the. Fortitude sort of the strength, the mental wherewithal, the at your great, great grandfather exhibited after he and his wife escaped the massacre. I think it might have something to do with them as individuals. JB just may have had, like you said, the wherewithal or the force to, to move ahead.
I do know that it. It did affect him. And I know that it left some deep scars, so to speak. He was never quite the same. He did live out his life and relative comfort, but JB also had obtained an education, a college degree, raised his children and made sure that they were educated as well. So he was able to fall back on that education.
He was, his children were already established. Had this happen to him when he was 18, 19, 20 years old, maybe he would have, there's a possibility he would have never gone on to graduate from college and chief, the things that he was able to, I think that actually has a lot to do with it as well. And the reason JB was able to stay out of jail after the massacre is because he did have that law degree.
I suppose he didn't have that law degree. There's a good chance that he would have ended up in jail. And died in jail if it happened to him at an earlier age. So I think it, it may have something to do. I think a lot of it has to do with them as individuals, how they chose to handle it, how they're able to move ahead after the massacre.
But I also think it has to do with where they were at what stage in life they were. When the massacre took place, that's really interesting. His memoirs, aside from what you described, is there anything else in his memoirs that you think is noteworthy that the public should also know? I mean, there were a lot of people in Tulsa who tried to do the right thing.
On both sides of the tracks. So to speak history is not always excuse the pun, but black and white, there are many shades of gray and there are people in the communities, both communities who tried to do good. Obviously a lot of people who did a lot of bad things, which led to the massacre. But you're referring to the white and black community in Tulsa.
Next is the Stratford family historian and Stratford's great granddaughter. Laurel Stratford.
Okay. So Laurel, you are the family spokesperson, correct? Yes, there's JV.
And my grandfather's son was also called CF Stratton, which is my day. So it went from JB to see us to see I've seen it, the CF jr. And then no, he had all girls. So it's just me. I just, him. So when I was talking to Nate, he was saying that JB was part of the contingent of black men, black male leaders in Tulsa.
Who'd gone to the courthouse to see about Dick Roland and to make sure he didn't get lynched. And somehow in the whole melee of the riot, JB was blamed partially by Nate says O w Gurley. And, you know, they, they blamed him. And so he ended up being charged and he was one of the few people that was actually charged.
And apparently according to Nate, O w Gurley, he kind of sold JB out to save himself. But regardless that's is that your understanding and that he was not responsible for it? But, you know, J D got arrested, probably something to do with the fact that he was a wealthy person who tried to protect those that were considered guilty of something.
He was in jail and grandpa went down there and got him out of jail and brought him to Chicago. And so what is the message that your family tries to convey to people about JB? You know, because for many years he was considered somebody who helped start the riot. No, I'm not saying he did. I'm saying, I'm saying they blamed him for that.
No, I mean, you know, it was a car because anything, um, the success of black people. In a community where a lot of the people black and white as well, we're not all wealthy and successful with hotels and schools and all of that. There was a lot of success that was put back then. And then after the, Oh my gosh, what's the riot started.
I mean, they were just killing the kids, running over the women. They didn't care. It's a value to be connected to you and yours. You got your family, your children, you live solidly. You try to do the best that you can. The kids go to school. How proud of JB and his sons, your father, are you everybody who, you know?
Yeah. Maybe there was that terrible tragedy, but the family seemed to. You know, still come out of it and not let anybody dampen their success, you know, as someone who was blown up and I'm like even saying elderly, but I'm at a point in my life where I, you know, I look back on all of this and I'm very, very proud of my family.
There's not a person I have ever met. It did not say, wow, you are. Stretchered what a fabulous family that is. They've got great history. So even with all the hardship and the pain that you had to go to stay alive, or to get connected or be, uh, supportive and wealthy, took time, it took hard work and it wasn't ever about.
Stealing anything from anybody, it was about training your kids, educating the kids, you know, because very, uh, some of them letters, in fact, grandpa wrote said that his dad made him read every morning. I mean, every night going up to bed, he would put these signs on the steps of the wall as they went upstairs and he had to read everything on every page.
He had to learn. So it was all about learning to do the best that you can. And everybody became educated. I mean, half the family, the lawyer judges.
And even though I was supposed to go to law school, I promised I'd come back after I went to Morocco. I didn't come back five and a half years.
I love it. I'm an artist. So the painter and a writer. That's great. Okay. I'm not, none of us were cheaters. So, you know, it's a family that wants to support others. It's not all just about.
earlier. I mentioned the process by which justice was sought following the Tulsa race massacre, or the lack thereof here to give us some more context on this topic and on the life of JB Stratford. And now familiar voice on this podcast, Tulsa world reporter and author of TOSA, 1921. Reporting a massacre, Brandy preview
almost several days after the massacre. Indeed. The attorney general was charged with figuring out what happened and who should be charged. Is that correct? Okay. And so the attorney general, he comes to Tulsa. However, he doesn't necessarily make it his mission to hold those responsible for the massacre accountable instead, what is he focused on?
And what's his name? So his name was S Prince Freeland. His name was probably Prentice, but he went by S printery freely who's attorney general of Oklahoma. And he had been fighting with the officials in Tulsa for a long time over their enforcement of prohibition. Oklahoma had been a dry state from the beginning.
So the advent of prohibition was nothing new here. So you've been fighting. Here with the various officials for some time. And actually he had been investigating the Tulsa police department prior to, and at the time of the rice mask. so as this grand jury enfolded and as the subsequent trial of the police chief and folded, it became clear that his first priority really.
Plus to get the police chief on all sorts of things, including for instance, the police chief was accused of being aware that a auto theft ring was being run out of the auto theft investigations here. In other words, they were only finding cars if they had arranged to have stolen in the first place. So in the course of this day, first of all, the grand jury issues and report, and it says race riot was, they call it.
The rice riot is primarily caused by these African Americans who went to the courthouse. And they're most applying for this, but there's some white people that also acted improperly. So they issued 80 something indictments and probably two thirds to three 47 for black people. At the same time, they charged the chief of police with a number of counts, five that did not carry a criminal penalty.
They were just, this was for removal of office. So it was failure to do is do two of them were related to the riot and three were unrelated to. As I said, as these went along, it was sort of, well, if we can show that, you know, some white person killed a black person, we'll look into that. But what we're mainly interested in EY is describing this as well.
The first thing was to get the police chief, as we think he's a bad guy, they probably was. And number two, we want this described as a Negro uprising. And, and so we're going to put the blame on them, which looping back around to, you know, the efforts to rebuild Greenwood. Yeah. The two newspapers on the one hand saying you got to get money to help rebuild Greenwood and also saying, but you know, really it was their fault.
I just want a part of that because that's a really important, because the narrative of, okay, we have to help these black people within days shifted to these black people are responsible for burning their own community to the ground or for the destruction of their own community. Not the people who actually did the burning, killing and looting.
Yeah. And I don't want to be clear. It wasn't that they were saying that black people burn bringing. And it wasn't even that this was being fully excused. What they were saying was that, well, what happened was a result of these black people going to the courthouse. So what happened to Greenwood, the burning and shooting and looting and all that stuff.
That's, that's really bad and that shouldn't happen, but they kind of brought it on themselves. Right. So now these indictments are handed down and. Within days, actually they begin to gather interviews and testimony from key people involved in the massacre, as well as law enforcement officials and other leaders in Tulsa.
Is that correct? Correct. What did some of these people say in their testimony? Because I guess what I'm trying to get out here is you have some key players, right? You had the chief of police, you had the sheriff, you had. The national guard here, and a lot of law enforcement officials, some who were officially part of the Tulsa police force, or, you know, Sheriff's office and others who were simply deputized by various people and really given, you know, the permission to.
Go out and do vigilante justice, but then you also had some African American leaders in Greenwood. And one of them I'm thinking of is a man named Barney Cleaver. He was the lead to be according to your book, Tulsa 1921. He was believed to be Tulsa's first African-American police officer. And he was also a Tulsa County Sheriff's deputy at the time of the Tulsa race massacre.
And he was also a substantial Greenwood property owner who suffered one of the largest financial losses from the fire and looting most. So they did start taking testimony right away. The first they started what was called a court of inquiry, which is kind of an informal grand jury. We don't have those anymore.
And then they, they went to grand jury. Well, of course the press was excluded from those. Most of the testimony that we have now are from the trial of John Gustafson, the police chief, and then what's called the Redfern case, which actually was a couple of years later, but there was also a fair amount of.
No just interviews in the press, not only with the world and the Tribune, but the st. Louis post dispatch carried some pretty lengthy stories. They had a correspondent here and they had some pretty lengthy interviews with several key people. So we have all of that, the exact testimony from the grand jury, I have never seen, I don't know if it still exists and from the court of inquiry.
We're not sure exactly what went on in there, but even then you could kind of tell, you know, from some descriptions there were, you know, African Americans waiting in the hall, wanting to get in and testify who, who were never called. And some, it appears to me, the most of the grand jury testimony was from white people.
In fact, I believe that perhaps one of the people, it may be, I guess this was on the first day of one of these, the only black person who's tested on, he was taken was the black janitor at the courthouse. It didn't know anything about what, I don't think what went on in Greenwood. He was called in to ask about what went on at the courthouse.
So how did Bernie Cleaver? Because didn't he say that it was the black men who went to the courthouse to see about Dick roll-in. They were responsible for the riot. So he gave him a newspaper interview and he said some of the people who were at the forefront of the group that went to the courthouse or.
Drug dealers and people like that. And in one of them and seems like that's probably, he probably was involved in some of that stuff. Now later on, Barney kind of changed his tune a little bit, but whenever I'm reading these stories, quoting black people in white newspapers, I'm always thinking about. Okay.
These folks are in a bad spot here. They've just been cleaned out. Some of them are lucky to be alive. So you're talking to the white newspaper reporter to put stuff in the newspaper. That's mainly going to be ran by white people and certainly. White people who are influential are gonna read this story.
So what are you going to tell them? Are you going to tell him, you know, this quote, bad Negro and quote, that nobody can find as responsible? Are you going to say, well, you know, if, if the police chief or the mayor or the sheriff, or somebody had called out the national guard, when this all started, none of this would have happened.
And there were a lot of black people who said, Similar kind of things. And I suspect, I mean, I'm not a psychologist, but I suspect there was a certain amount of conditioning that had gone along over the generations where you're conditioned to look at your own at yourself for your own people for fall, you know, no question the actions of the white people and especially, you know, Question the actions of white people to other white people.
So I recently connected with a descendant of JB Stratford. Who was apparently also a prominent business person in Tulsa and said to be some of the leaders of the blackmail contingent that went to the courthouse to see what was happening with Dick Roland. And he was incriminated, obviously he was ultimately charged.
He was one of the few people who were charged in this, I guess, over the course of these investigations. And his great, great grandson. He says that O w Gurley and Bernie Cleaver became witnesses for the state and incriminated JB Stratford. Have you ever heard that before? I don't know if I've heard that.
Exactly. I think that's a possibility. And then of course it depends on what you mean by. Witnesses for this day. I mean, if they just got up and said what they saw, I don't know if that's being, you know, if they're just telling what they're saw there being witnesses. I, you know, Stratford was a very fiery guy.
So from what I've seen, the most incriminating information against him was a couple of guys who said that they heard him. Send people down to the courthouse and say, I'm going to call to Muskogee and we're going to get 500 minutes and whether they're Stratford. And then also, supposedly there was a phone call intercepted.
Remember that in those days, phone calls and especially long distance phone calls had to go through an operator. So. It was claimed that there were, you know, witnesses other than the Cleaver early, who heard, you know, Stratford call the SCOBY and say that he was going to call Muskogee and encourage these guys to go down to the courthouse.
So I don't know exactly what role girly and Barney Cleaver had in turning. In causing Stratford to be indicted, but I think he probably would have been charged no matter what, everything began to turn. Not on what happened to Greenland, but what happened at the courthouse that quickly became the crux of the criminal side of the, so I just want to be clear because you mentioned Smitherman and we hadn't really talked about him.
So Rebecca JB, Stratford, he was born a slave in Kentucky. He, his family moved to TOSA just before the turn of the century. He went to Oberlin college and Indiana law school. And eventually settled in Tulsa is said to have become the richest African-American in Tulsa. He had some rooming houses, rather. He had a rooming house, some rental properties and the largest African American owned hotel in the United States at this time.
So presumably he had a lot to lose. And can you just explain who Smitherman was? Okay. Well, he J Smitherman and his brother, John, who was a Sheriff's deputy at the time were born in Alabama. And then when they were boys or their parents or their family moved to the Choctaw nation, which is Southeastern Oklahoma today and appears her father worked as a coal miner there.
And AIJ. I was the older it's Andrew moved to Muskogee and became a protege of a man named twine. There was a prominent black newspaper man, lawyer, real estate guy, real estate investor, and, and then J Smitherman came to Tulsa around 1913. Started his own newspaper called the Tulsa star. And then his brother, John came sometime later.
And as I said, became a law, a J Smitherman. And in John Stradford JB Stratford, we're both very strong. What today we would call civil rights are more to the point equal rights. Add. Yeah. JB Stratford ensued over the, uh, the States segregated rail car. Wow. And it was very, very involved in the Republican party.
Hey, J Smitherman on the other hand was a little bit more Maverick, I guess you would say when he came to Tulsa, he got involved in the democratic party. And most African Americans at that time voted Republican. Cause you know, it was, it was not only the party of Lincoln, but in the South, the Democrat party was the party of segregation and Jim Crow and that sort of thing.
But AGA Smitherman, his feeling was that the democratic party was in the majority in Oklahoma. It was going to be in the majority for the foreseeable future. So there was going to be any change. It had to be within the democratic party. And he was constantly feeding, not only with white leaders, but a lot of African American leaders too.
He was often at odds with Roscoe Ben, Jean, who was probably the most influential black man in Oklahoma at that time. And he was the editor of the black dispatcher. The slate. So, you know, AIJ was a very, Andrew Smitherman was a very steadfast and I guess you might say feisty advocate for equal rights and he pretty openly mocked anyone who accepted the status quo.
What, you know, whether he actually had tried to organize. African-Americans into some kind of defense organization or something like that. You know, I don't know he did in his newspaper advocate that African Americans actively oppose any attempts at lynching in the DUSA with force, if they felt called on to do it.
So, you know, I think it's fair to say that that. Some of these folks that went to the courthouse, probably very some of their inspiration from, from AJC. And then probably Stradford said, I don't think they believe they were going to get the neighborhood burned down. Just to be clear of the black people who were blamed for the massacre or inciting the massacre.
Were the main players, Aja, Smitherman, and JB Stratford were there others? Well, girlie was now early, actually went to the courthouse in Stratford night here. I don't think Smitherman, but the allegation was is that these, these guys met in organized, at least some of them at Smitherman newspaper point. So, you know, yeah.
I don't think what happened to them was justified, but I understand why they became the target of what happened. I understand why they wound up bearing a lot of know blind for what happened by the way. I'm talking about whites. I wouldn't be surprised if some what didn't buy them too. Just because I think he probably had a lot of black folks who felt like things weren't going too bad and well, you know, and then we got burned out.
And if you guys had just been, not quite so outspoken, maybe this is Gordon and pamphlet, you know, it's really hard to figure out who you mentioned. Stradford being maybe the wealthiest. Person in green with it. And I think it's really hard to figure all of that stuff out because so much of what people now, now we tend to think of wealth in terms of how much money we have or how many stocks we have.
Then it was really more, a matter of property. And the impression I get is that Stratford probably had a fair amount of property. But he was also, you know, he had just finished that hotel and it was maybe borrowed money or so you probably had some debt or I'm just using him as an example. What I'm trying to say is really in this, I guess his office, but it's hard to know who was really the most.
I mean, it could have been some guy that he had, uh, he had a bunch of cash. In the bank somewhere or, or buried somewhere. It's really hard to say he is the wealthiest person and bring, what was it that. so now with the investigations, what there were several investigations. And what was the outcome of those investigations at the time following the massacre after the attorney general came, he, he was in charge of several investigations.
Well, I would say the overall result of the investigation was nothing. John Gustafson, the police chief was removed from office. But other than that, you know, really nothing here in terms of people being prosecuted for anything. There were a couple of, at least a couple of, of white people who were charged with arson, which could have developed into pretty serious charges.
The dad never went anywhere. So you had all these black people who were indicted and charged, and most of them, nothing, nothing happened to them. You don't have one Andersen. Other, other brother, John, who was a Sheriff's deputy spent a month in jail, charged with inciting Hyatt and was released and went back to being a deputy sheriff.
So there were some minor things. People pleaded guilty to some minor, uh, fractions, possession, stolen property, gun charges, that sort of thing. But the result of it all was, you know, by the fall of 1921, people just said, okay, let's just give up. And that was the end of. So it's safe to say that nobody was ever really held to account for the Tulsa rates massacre for the record.
I guess you would say the only person who ever paid any kind of price for it, other than the people who were killed, obviously, and the people who lost their property, but in terms of being held accountable, the only person sort of held accountable was the police too.
Now all the people, all the elected officials from the city. The mayor and the city commission and, you know, all of those people were defeated in the next election. So know that, and that was probably why, but in terms of any kind of legal in court held accountable, Nope.
in the next episode, we'll explore the process by which Tulsa rebuilt black wall street and the regeneration it experienced as a result. Be sure to check out our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages by searching for black wall street, 1921. And make sure you also visit our website, www.black wall street, hyphen 1920 one.com where you can sign up for our newsletter and keep up with all of our episodes.
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