Ep. 5: Rumors of Lynching "Diamond Dick"
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Title: [Truck on street near Litan Hotel carrying soldiers and African Americans during Tulsa, Okla., race riot in 1921] Contributor : C. Krupnick Co., photographerCreated / Published:  Forms part of: Visual Materials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Records.- Collection finding aid available. Call Number/Physical Location: LOT 13095, no. 3 [P&P;] RepositoryDigital Id: cph 3a52251 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a52251 Library of Congress Control Number: 95517748 Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-35360 (b&w film copy neg.) Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
On Monday May 30, 1921 an African American shoe shine boy named Dick Rowland boarded an elevator in the Drexel building in downtown Tulsa, OK and headed for the upper floor restroom as he had done in the past. On the elevator was a young Caucasian elevator operator named Sarah Page. According to Rowland, who was known around town as "Diamond Dick," the elevator lurched, causing him to fall against Page, who then screamed. A nearby white store clerk store ran to her aid. Fearing for his safety, Rowland Fled. The store clerk reported the incident as an attempted assault. After word of the alleged assault made its way around town, a mob formed outside of the jail Rowland was being kept in that in all likely hood would have lynched him if they could. Ultimately Page refused to testify against Rowland and declined to prosecute the case. The damage, however, had already been done.
In this episode, listeners will hear excerpts of the documentary, "The Origins of Lynching Culture in the United States." The documentary is produced by the organization, “Facing History and Ourselves.” Their mission is to use the lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate. To learn more visit, www.facinghistory.org.
Featured guests in this episode include:
-Hannibal B. Johnson, attorney, consultant and author of Black Wall Street.
-Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World Reporter and Author of Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre.
“...the Tulsa Tribune published a story entitled "Nab Negro For Attacking Girl In An Elevator." ~Hannibal B. Johnson
A special thanks to Facing History and Ourselves for allowing the use of their documentary, "The Origins of Lynching Culture in the United States" in this episode.
1. Hannibal B. Johnson, attorney, consultant and author of Black Wall Street. 2. Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World Reporter and Author of Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre.
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Rough Episode Transcription
Well, I guess really what most impressed me was that normal race ride that they had some time in the early 1920, probably seven or eight years old at the time. And of course I was personally involved because, um, they. No, his women that had been
doing our washing for years on Monday morning and doing ironing on Tuesdays, um, um, showed up at her house on Wednesday and just scared to death. And my mother won no one. Lily, what is the matter? This isn't your day? What. She says, Oh, this water's getting you hide me. They're burning down the tail. And mother says, Oh, they wouldn't do that.
What, what is it? She says, yes is in our district in town are being set for her too. And mother didn't know whether to believe her mom, but she brought her in and order a cup of coffee and told her to sit down and. Yeah at home herself and she never did quit. She did, but they, as I talked, one mother said her dad figured out that the only place that she was sure that nobody would probably look if they came looking for Lilly was down through a trap door that went into our base, which was, tell her generally via a rub.
And she did Lily. And this little girl she had with her, um, some blankets and pillows and food and water. And they went down in this unfinished basement, which was not only unfinished, it was dirt floor and just not even a room. And my mother went down and checked on her every now and then. And she stayed.
Down in their place the whole day and about three or four o'clock in the afternoon doorbell. Right. And brother went to the door and there were two men standing there. The second they were police officers. And they wanted to know if the woman that worked here
had come to work that morning. And mother says she doesn't work here on Wednesdays. She only works here on Mondays and Tuesday and they said, well, I bet she's here. And mother said, well, why do you think that? Well, I bet she's here. I said, abrupt, come in and look. So I came in and searched every closet and every room and the entire house.
Then they went out and searched the garage. Then they came back and I was like, well, he didn't want to come back in and search the morning. They said, no, yes, not. So they went on and mother called him dad. He was URI. He didn't believe in somebody coming in and searching his property when he hadn't done anything wrong.
But he did figure it out. So he came home and I remember that they got home from the first Christian Church now ninth, and felt with her asking if they had any hops, army tops and blankets and food. And any other bedding if they get that down there. So they got the Onyx house that they owned, which I think was about four and took some food and blankets and daddy down to the first Christian Church.
And I don't remember what him, so literally she wasn't at our house only just that one day. And I guess she must've gone with my dad down to the first person church. But, uh, my grandmother made the cross, the alley. She lived on ninth and LA and, uh, across the alley from the Oklahoma hospital. And, uh, they turned up the hospital into the receiving area or route four.
I didn't win in the talent section. And, um, so I sat on the back, um, stone fence behind my grandmother's house, after they began to release the babies and their mothers and watch these little teeny tiny. Blanket wrap babies being sent home from Oklahoma hospital at the end of that week. I didn't know how they made their work that I did enjoy.
That was a recorded interview from years ago, with Virginia Waters. Polton courtesy of the Tulsa historical society and museum. Colton was a white woman who lived in Tulsa at the time of the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. She was describing her family's efforts to save a black domestic employee who works for her family.
At the time the massacre occurred.
In partnership with the Tulsa race massacre, Centennial commission. I'm Nia Clark. And this is black wall street, 1921.
If you've been listening to this podcast from the beginning by now, you've probably heard me mentioned several times the potentially hundreds of people that were killed in the Tulsa race massacre as a journalist. I know from firsthand experience that sometimes when reporting on or covering a tragedy that has a massive number of casualties, those numbers can take the place of the identity of the victims themselves in that those victims become numbers without.
Thesis means character, family, friends, careers, et cetera. So in the next few episodes, as we continue our deep dive into the actual Tulsa race massacre, I'm going to do my best to highlight some of the actual people who were killed in the massacre. Not only describing the nature of their deaths, but who they were in life.
In that vein. One of the most prominent people killed in the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 was a doctor by the name of AC Jackson, according to the Tulsa race massacre Centennial commission. Dr. Jackson is described as a physician who quote, transcended the color line. Servicing both white and colored patients in the Tulsa race riot report by the Oklahoma commission to study the Tulsa race riot of 1921 dated February 28th, 2001 describes more than a dozen black physicians in Tulsa in 1921, including dr.
Jackson, it reads quote in nearby buildings were the offices of nearly all of Tulsa's black lawyers, realtors, and other professionals. Most impressively, there were 15 African American physicians in Tulsa at the time of the riot, including dr. AC Jackson, who had been described by one of the Mayo brothers as the quote, most able Negro surgeon in America in probe, just for historical clarification.
The male brothers mentioned in that passage refer to brothers, Charles, Horace, Mayo and William James Mayo. Both American physicians and surgeons who led the development of the Mayo clinic into a world class center for medical treatment and research
the Tulsa world, the only daily newspaper in Tulsa and the second largest newspaper in Oklahoma published a timeline of the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 on October 24th. 2019. This is what it says about dr. Jackson quote. The most prominent Tulsan killed in the massacre was dr. AC Jackson, a 40 year old surgeon living at five 23 North Detroit Avenue.
According to dr. Jackson's white neighbor, former police commissioner, and retired judge, John Ollifont. Jackson had raised his hands to surrender to a group of whites. When two of them shot Jackson dead. And what Ollifont called cold blooded murder, born in Memphis and raised him, got three where his father was a law officer Jackson graduated from a hairy medical college in Nashville.
Practice for a while in Tulsa and Claremore, then trained as a surgeon in Memphis. His work was such that he attracted the attention of the male brothers and in 1919, he returned to Tulsa as a specialist in chronic diseases and surgery for women Jackson lived in what was one of the most exclusive blocks in all of Greenwood.
His neighbors included Booker T Washington high school principal, EDW woods, Tulsa star publisher, a J Smith or men and physician R T Bridgewater. Y Jackson. One of the gentlest men would have been singled out is not known. Perhaps he was mistaken for the more outspoken Smitherman or Bridgewater, perhaps he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The massacre had all but died down. Fon said when Jackson quote came walking toward me with his hands in the air. Here I am. I want to go with you. He said a body of about seven men, all armed intercepted him. And two young fellows fired on him. He fell to the ground and one of the men fired again.
InstaQuote Jackson's killers were never identified.
The Tulsa race, riot report by the Oklahoma commission to study the Tulsa race riot of 1921 published the actual testimony of mr. Ollifont. Again, a white attorney who lived in nearby dr. Jackson, this is what it said. Quote, the most infamous. Incident involving white civilians, imprisoning African Americans was that which concerned dr.
AC Jackson ptosis noted black surgery. Despite the increase in gunfire, dr. Jackson had decided to remain inside of his handsome home at five 23 North Detroit, along the shoulder of standpipe Hill. But when a group of armed whites arrived in his front lawn, Jackson apparently walked out the side door of his home with his hands up saying, here I am, boys.
Don't shoot. What happened next was later recounted by John a Ollifont a white attorney who lived nearby in testimony. He provided after the riot question. About what time in the morning did you say it was dr. Jackson was shot answer right close to eight o'clock between seven 30 and eight o'clock question.
Dr. Jackson was a Negro answer. Yes, sir. Question. And he was coming toward you and these other men at the time he was shot. Answer. Yes, sir. Coming right between his house right in his yard between his home and the house below hit question. What do these men say? At the time he was shot answer. They didn't say anything, but they pulled down on him.
I kept begging him not to shoot him. I held him a good bit and I thought he wouldn't shoot, but he shot him twice. And the other fellow on the other side and he fell, shot him and broke his leg question one, man, shot him twice. Answer. Yes, sir. That is my recollection. Now question, then another one shot him through the leg answer.
Yes. I didn't look at that fellow question. The same men that shot him, carried him to the hospital answer. No, they didn't question. What did they do? Answer. I've never seen them after that. I don't know a thing about what became of him. Dr. Jackson died of his wounds later that day
up next, someone who knew dr. AC Jackson, when he was living and working in Tulsa Wilamena guests. How is one of a number of survivors who have gone on record about their experience in the Tulsa race massacre before passing away? We heard from mrs. Howell previously in this podcast, similar to many survivors.
This is how a school teacher for more than 40 years did not begin to talk about the massacre until much later in life. She was 87 at the time of the recording. You're about to hear. Which was made during a documentary interview several decades ago with author and historian at eBay Gates, how his relatives were pioneers in Oklahoma.
She moved to Tulsa with her family when she was four years old and lived in the Greenwood district, also known as black wall street after they lost for three year old brother and a house. Fire at their previous home in McAlester, Oklahoma, mrs. Howe came from a prominent family. That was what might come to mind.
When you try to imagine people who live in black wall street, she graduated from Howard university, just like her father. Some of her family members lived in Oklahoma and eventually TOSA long enough to experience the economic growth spurred by the oil. Boom of the era for father was a lawyer and several uncles were doctors.
Including dr. AC Jackson.
Oh, she was afraid of for her brother. She had two younger brothers and my mother did, they, mother was dr. Jackson my way, and he was pitching them the table. Um, let me, it was, uh, I thought he was great as a physician. In fact, he saved me. I had tried for a relabel fever when I was about seven years old. I lived down on Elgin street, three 70 North Elgin, and he lived next door and that man was over there.
He saved me and I appreciate that very much, but unfortunately he was murdered during the brace right here in Tulsa. He was coming on his house. He'd work late that night. And they had started burning up on Detroit street that, that they'll be torn street and they, um, Started burning. And so he, um, he had come in late over the case.
He was a house doctor and, uh, yeah, cure, keep him in the house. And then they said, if I smell smoke, and of course the house was on fire and it was 75 of the houses. The mob was at that time. So they came out the back door and came up to the front counter of the helium. I phoned the dark Detroit street.
Six five or 600 block and white navels cross streets. Oh, that's back to Jackson Obama him. And at that time, that's mama young boys had shot, goes, Lee shot into him. And, uh, we took him to Guthrie where he had grown up after they left Memphis, Tennessee and buried him in Guthrie where my grandparents were buried.
And, um, that was my mother's brother because as I said, he saved me when I had time for malaria fever when I was young. Not only that, uh, it was a good physician
as mentioned previously, many survivors of the massacre did not talk about the attack. Afterwards, whether they stayed and rebuilt in Tulsa or whether they left for good, there were a number of reasons for this. For some, it was too traumatizing. Others remained mum about the massacre because they saw their silence as a way of protecting their children.
And children's children from experiencing. The potential horrors that they lived through and still many were forced into silence by bad actors who threatened their jobs and even their lives. We'll explore this more later in the podcast for now suffice to say, because of the decision many survivors made to remain largely silent.
For much of their lives about the Tulsa race massacre, many descendants of survivors lived for years without any or much knowledge at the massacre, let alone any knowledge that their own ancestors and relatives survived. The experience. This was the case for Tulsa native Brinda, nails Alford.
So. Brenda yells Alford. You are a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Your family has a long history in Tulsa. And we're talking today about your family that survived the massacre and sort of what, if anything, they could tell you about it. And so one of the things I think is important. For this project is to hear from people who have either firsthand accounts or secondhand accounts, but are connected to somebody who was there that day, that tragic day, we've got a lot of recordings that were done with some of the survivors, but I think it's important to talk to people like you, who are descendants of survivors as well, because you can really.
Feel what was passed down in tangible things that were passed down over the generation. So why don't you just tell me a little bit about yourself and how your family even came to live in Tulsa? Okay. My name is Brenda nails, Al Ford, and I am the granddaughter of James ambassador nails, sr, who along with my great uncle Henry now.
We're the owners of the nails brothers shoe shop and record shop located at one 21 North Greenwood Avenue. My family migrated to Tulsa in the early 19 hundreds from Texas as many others did, they basically had heard that there was an opportunity to do well in Oklahoma. And so like so many others, they migrated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, some of our family settling in McAlester, Oklahoma, and then the rest coming on to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
So they, they were rented that land run, I guess, wave of folks coming in. Yes. Yes. Our family was here doing the early 19 hundreds, as I said, and migrated to Tulsa from McAlester, Oklahoma. Yep. Gotcha. So they were business people, they were entrepreneurial and spirit. Yes, they were, they were they're owners of the shoe shops.
We had several locations in the Greenwood community. They were also the first owners of what is now Lacey park. We're in the nails, dance pavilion and skating rink was located. And they also operated I chauffer and taxi service. So they were very, very entrepreneurial minded people, as most of the people were during that time.
And my understand that they did very, very well. Did your family ever tell you about what it was like before the race massacre happens to be a black entrepreneur in Tulsa at the time who was doing very well for themselves? Unfortunately not. I grew up knowing about our family businesses as a kid, but I did not find out the race massacre aspect of our family history until about 2003.
Wow. When I would receive a yes, when I would receive a notary. Vacation from a legal entity here in Tulsa, notifying myself and many others that the survivors and descendants of survivors for being included in a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa regarding reparations stemming from the 1921 race riots, as it was termed at that time.
That's how I found out about the race massacre and our family history. And it was pretty devastating. Did you have any knowledge of the race massacre before that at all? You know, I had heard about the race massacre. You started hearing about it in the late, the mid to late nineties is when I started hearing about it.
And as I contemplated, as I began my journey to find that the rest of our family story regarding the race masker, as I fell back, I thought of stories I used to hear as a little kid, they were quote unquote, grown for conversation, but. I remember knowing that my grandmother had to hide in a church for some reason, but I didn't know why I was very, very young and I didn't of course know the questions to ask at that time.
I wish I had, but I remember that vaguely. And I remember that when we'd ever, we passed by the Oaklawn cemetery. On Doria and 11th street, especially when we would have family members come home to visit. And we'd be going, passing by beer as a little kid. I'd hear the grown folks say, you know, you know, they're still over there referring to the cemetery and everybody in the car, they would.
Agreed. Yes, they're still over there and they kind of shake their heads and we'd go on. And I always had a thing of that, that cemetery as a little girl who grow it up because I was like, you know, wondering what's over there. And of course, many years later, I understand exactly what they were talking about.
Was it a real cemetery or was it sort of done cemetery? Uh, in fact, we all are on a committee of basically overseeing the. Mass graves, where people were buried after the race massacre, we're basically doing monitoring and we're basically studying certain cemeteries where in bodies are said to have been buried after the race massacre.
Gotcha. So you learned about this horrific event. Later in life, as you are obviously an adult at the time you've gone your entire childhood and adulthood until that point. What was your reaction in 2003? When you learned about your family's involvement in the massacre, I remember reading the document five times, wondering to myself, why was I receiving it and what exactly did it mean.
It was just a, it was devastating. And it was heartbreaking to know that people that you loved and who loved you and who gave you their best were treated in this manner. It was very hard. It's very heartbreaking. Yeah. Yeah. I can't really imagine, as I interviewed all these people and listened to all the recordings.
It's still really hard to imagine. If you don't mind, if I can ask you about it. There was a different socioeconomic classes of people, right. In Tulsa at the time, your family was one of those families that did really well. How do your family, even in Texas, have they always been sort of entrepreneurial or yeah.
Sort of self sufficient in that way, or was it something of necessity that they had to do? Because like a lot of people, a lot of black people in Tulsa, they really couldn't engage in the larger economy because of discrimination and segregation. So what was their motivation behind all of their businesses?
My grandfather was a very proud college educated Shoemaker. And there's a quote in one of the books that one of the first accounts after the race, the massacres that was written by a lady named mrs. Mary Paris, mrs. Mary Jones parish, she wrote the book, a dense of the Tulsa disaster. And one of the things that she wrote in her book, Was a little paragraph where she basically talks about Tulsa, the Greenwood area before, during and after the race maskers.
And one of the things she says about my family is the following. This is Henry and J H nails are two of Tulsa's leading businessmen before the disaster. They owned a modern shoe. Shop that with all machinery needed to conduct a high class shop. Their loss was estimated at over $4,000 since the disaster.
They have reopened in their quarters at one 21 North Greenland. And in addition to having a well-equipped shop, they carry a full line of black Swan records. Hmm. That was written in 1921. This is parish wrote this book several days after she was interviewing various members of the community and writing accounts of this days after the race master, this is one of the first accounts of a race massacre.
That's amazing. And did she say in, did she say in the book, what happened to your family's businesses during the massacre? She basically talked about very many people in the community. What happened? You know, she gave an account of what happened those two days, that there was just a carnage. She basically is just saying that the mobs were going through the community.
Bernie making people come out of their homes at gunpoint shooting at them. Planes were flying overhead, dropping what amounts to a Molotov cocktails. You know, some people survived the carnage, some people didn't and it was just a horrendous occasion. It was, it was horrendous. Yeah. And your family, you mentioned their survivors, your grandparents.
It was all my father's side, his mother, my grandmother. And. My great grandmother was also a survivor. She is buried at Oak lawn cemetery, which is one of the focuses of the mass graves. She, uh, did not perish in the massacre. Uh, she died in 1925, looks a few years after the race masker, but she is buried at Oakwood cemetery wherein chronically many were buried after the race massacre and mass graves.
And we're trying to find, you know, evidence. We have the evidence of that. We're trying to find those mass graves to bring some justice to those people who were buried in those grapes and give them the due respect that they deserve. And your grandmother, or your father, your grandmother. What about your grandmother's husband, which would be your grandfather?
Did he survive? Yes, my grandfather survived. My grandparents survived along with my great uncle Henry also there then two year old daughter, the late dr. Cecilia nails Palmer, who I said was the first black professor would become the first black professor at the university of Tulsa in later years. But it's really amazing that people who survive such a horrible occasion.
So they stayed, they rebuilt, they raised off the families to, to be positive and to, you know, to keep moving forward in spite of what they endured in life. I have a granddaughter, my grandparents raised my father too, to be that way. And. Basically a raised a sister and I that way. And I'm just, I'm grateful because they had been to do do otherwise.
Right. Exactly. Actually, I just wanted to ask, does your family, or do they ever talk about how they managed to survive the massacre, how they managed to. Live to tell about it. My grandparents, basically in the book, they came searching by Eddie Faye Gates. Uh, there was an interview done and her book by my late uncle, uh, wherein, um, they document that my grandfather had shared that.
Our family neighbors and friends ran for their lives from the Greenwood community to a park that was located miles away from where they licked all into return to find their homes and their businesses looted and burned to the ground. Gotcha. And in the days that followed, how soon after did they start to pick up the pieces?
Six through the rebel and try to rebuild their lives. As soon as they were allowed to be able to come back to the community, they were gathered up along with many others and taken to the internment camps, if you will. Whereas they were treated like second, third class citizens. They retreated horribly. So I'm sure that the process of getting back to restarting their businesses, it took a while because there were other situations that were going on within the community at that same time.
In the next episode, we'll hear from more descendants of survivors of the Tulsa race massacre. As we work through one of the most violent racial events in the nation's history, be sure to rate, review and subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Don't forget to follow and like us on social media.
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