Ep. 8: When The Smoke Cleared
Photo Courtesy: Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
When the mayhem ceased, and the smoke cleared, Black Wall Street laid almost completely flattened. In less than 24 hours, according to a Red Cross estimate, more than 1,200 houses were burned; 215 others were looted but not torched. Two newspapers, a library, a school, stores, hotels, churches and many other black-owned businesses were among the buildings damaged or destroyed by fire. Historians now believe an estimated 300 people were killed, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum - although the official number of fatalities is much lower. The vast majority of the city’s black residents were left homeless.
In this episode listeners will hear an account of the Massacre and life after the Massacre from That was Tulsa Race Massacre survivor, Dr. Olivia J. Hooker. after surviving the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, Hooker, went on to become the first black woman to enlist in the Coast Guard before becoming a distinguished psychologist and later a psychology professor at Fordham University.
Listeners will also hear part of the 2018 award winning documentary called Maurice Willows: Unsung Hero of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, which was created by Seaman High School student Natalie Ford with the assistance of teachers, Susan Sittenauer and Nate McAlister. The documentary explores the story of Maurice Willows, Red Cross Director of Relief at the time of the Tulsa Race Massacre who worked tirelessly for months to provide aid to the victims of the attack. The film is part of the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes.
Featured guests in this episode include:
-Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World Reporter and Author of Tulsa 1921: Reporting a Massacre.
Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World Reporter and author
“People kept whispering to my dad, people who worked in service, said their employers were stockpiling all kinds of weapons, dynamite and stuff. And so we knew something was going to happen. But they were waiting on an occasion that they could blame it on." ~Dr. Olivia J. Hooker, Dr. Olivia J. Hooker,first black woman to enlist in the Coast Guard, psychologist and professor.
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Rough Episode Transcription
When I was a very small girl, we did live in Tulsa and my father had a business department store in Tulsa. And, uh, the people of the Tulsa business group were very good and they knew what people needed so that nobody who looked like us. Needed to go downtown. We bought everything in the neighborhood because the neighbors, the neighboring entrepreneurs were very clever at knowing what you'd needed and having it ready for you when you wanted it.
So I guess the powers that be on the other side of town felt, uh, we've got to get those people down here and get their consumer's money and they're buying everything in their own neighborhood. So we'd better move them out. So people keep kept whispering to my dad that their employers, people who worked in service said their employers were stuck, piling, all kinds of weapons and dynamite and stuff.
And so we knew something was gonna happen, but they were waiting for an occasion that they could blame it on. So sure enough. And young man carry two buckets of water going to the only bathroom downtown that blacks were allowed to use. So he stepped in the elevator and the elevator wasn't lined up. So he stumbled against the elevator operator.
She screamed. If that was the incident they were waiting for
in partnership with the Tulsa race massacre, Centennial commission, I'm Nia Clark. And this is black wall street. 1921.
that was Tulsa race massacre, survivor dr. Olivia J hooker. And the recording you just heard, she seems to be describing certain activities in the period before the massacre that made some people in Tulsa's African American district of Greenwood uneasy almost as if those activities were foreshadowing, something far worse, that was to come while never proven.
That is not the first time such a claim had been made about the massacre. In the video recording. Dr. Hooker was speaking to the entrance of the New York state Senate in 2010, after being invited by the now Senate majority leader, Andrea Stewart cousins. The speech occurred eight years before her death in November of 2018.
When she passed away in her home in white Plains, New York at the age of 103, at the time, she was believed to be among the last survivors of the massacre. According to her obituary in the New York times, after surviving the Tulsa race massacre of 1921. Okay. Went on to become the first black woman to enlist in the coast guard before becoming a distinguished psychologist and later a psychology professor at Fordham university.
Dr. Hooker was six years old when the mobs attack Tulsa's Greenwood district or black wall street. In her speech to the interns, she describes members of the mob, destroying her family's property, stealing their valuables and rounding up the men and boys in Greenwood, leaving the district virtually defenseless against the mob.
Before it was burned to the ground. Poker was one of five children. After the destruction of black wall street, hookers family moved to Topeka, Kansas, and later Ohio. She graduated from Ohio state university with a bachelor's degree and became an elementary school teacher in 1945. She was accepted into the U S coast.
Guard again, becoming the first African American woman to do so. Dr. Hooker received a master's degree in psychological services at Columbia university in 1947 and a doctorate in psychology at the university of Rochester in 1961.
She served as part of the Fordham faculty for nearly two decades, specializing in people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Take a listen to dr. Hooker. Describe part of the massacre and life afterwards.
I was a child that was the most frightened by the riot. The baby were dropping those bullets on our house. I thought it was hail. And I said to my mother, how can it be hailing with a sunshiny? She had us under a big Oak table under the legs of the table to keep us safe. After they started shooting at him.
And she said, that's not, Hey, I'll come. I'll show you. She took me to the window. Now, mind you, I was a very idealistic child. I believed everything. I had gone to a little private school that made us learn all of the preamble and all of them. The things that a child should learn about his country. And so I thought that they pertain to me, but my mother showed me through the window and she said, you see that thing up there, that's a machine gun.
And the man beside it has an American flag on the machine. Got, so that means your country is shooting at you. Well, that broke me up because. I thought, you know, life, Liberty and pursuit of happiness was all mine. And I didn't know. Now my sisters and brothers that were older, knew about prejudice. I didn't, nobody had ever told me there was anything I couldn't do because of my color.
And I didn't know it. So it really shattered my confidence in myself.
and the next morning you see baby burn, all those 10,000 people out of their homes that night, what they did was to bring in. All kinds of people. They may have different names, but they were cute gluts. They call themselves Eagle, clinicals and different things like that, but they didn't call themselves the Cubelets all the time, but they came by the thousands and decided pers they would pillage, they went through everybody's house to take what was valuable.
And they were not necessarily ignorant people because what they took. You could tell they knew what was good at what was worthwhile. They took my mother's pig skin bag, a suitcase that was still packed from coming home after getting my sister from a boarding school and maybe didn't take my sister's little Wicker suitcases.
They knew that wasn't valuable and they broke the records, but that we had a phonograph that would play all kinds of records and, uh, They looked at the records before they broke them and they broke all my mother's Caruso records. And then when they got to the old rugged cross, they didn't break that. So we knew they were trying to give us some message.
And that's what you have to look for. Sometimes when something happens, what message are they really aiming at? And they took silverware, but they didn't take silver plate. And they just hauled the belongings of the black population of Bolton away to use for their own use. And they didn't leave anything valuable if they could find it.
Now, they, they burned my grandmother's bed by putting oil on it and then setting fire to it. So there was no way to save that, but then the next morning, They came around and the Oklahoma militia, which is like the state police came and said, we're gonna disarm everybody. So they walked around and they took all the males at gunpoint.
They took them and said, we're disarming everyone. Well, you see if we lived on the left side of the town, We thought they were doing that on the right side of the thought, but they didn't. They took all the arms away from anyone that looked like he was African American, but they didn't disarm the other side of town.
And therefore they gave, if they didn't have guns, they gave them the ones that belong to the people in Tulsa. I mean, Greenwood and supplied them and said, well, now. There's nothing out there, but women and children we've taken every male. They even took my eight year old brother. I don't know what they thought he could have done, but then the crowds came and, and really did a lot of devastation and some things they didn't know, for example, my sister's piano, they had the, the case.
But the piano depends on the sounding board. They didn't touch that with their hatchets. So we were very happy. She still could play. And that was her life was her piano. So, but they were really trying to tell us, we don't want you here. However, Oklahoma's a pretty stubborn people. And they said, we're not leaving.
We're gonna build that.
my father had one piece of luck. He was walking in the rubble and they have pictures of the rebel of the store and he saw the safe was still there. So he thought, well, the safe was too big for them to haul away. So he went to the safe and work, the combination, lo and behold, everything was intact now he didn't have money, but he had bonds.
And, uh, they used to call them war bonds then. So he went around. A lot of people would bring their little money in a paper bag, put the name on it and say, mr. Hooker, keep this in your safe until I need it. And so you went around to all the neighbors that had entrusted their little bag of money in his safe and gave them back their money.
And then he and the Y secretary. In the branch, why decided they'd better go on a speaking tour to tell people in the United States what had happened. And so they cash some of the bonds and went to places like Washington, DC, Lynchburg, Petersburg, places like that to black churches and the black churches got barrels of shoes and clothing and things together and sent help.
To the people of Tulsa, which one end of Booker Washington high still stood. And they used that for a distribution place. So the people could come and take what they needed. Now, our parents decided, well, we better go to Topeka because that was where my sister went to boarding school and put our kids in school.
So that's what they did. And my father commuted from Tulsa to Topeka whenever he could afford to not, not that often, but there were trains, but, uh, we went to school then. In Topeka
well, when we had been into Bekah about seven years, my sisters went to college at Kansas university. And so then my mother decided we'd go back to Greenwood and, uh, favorite property. So that he wouldn't have to be a bachelor anymore. And so we went and I went to Booker Washington high school.
The horrific nature of the Tulsa race massacre can often overshadow the good that was done to help the victims of the massacre in its aftermath. It is important to highlight these instances of humanity because it is this humanity that in large part helped those left homeless and injured. After the massacre began to recover and rebuild.
And perhaps even heal all of this happened under the weight of unimaginable suffering after the systematic annihilation of Greenwood, the restoration of the ones notorious black wall street was left up to the victims of that destruction as if to add as much insult to injury as possible. Tolson officials turned away a number of offers of outside aid.
On the other hand, there were white Tolsons who stepped up and provided support to the city's dejected African American population. However, it was the American red cross, which mounted a massive sustained relief effort that provided the majority of the much needed aid to help. Not only blacks Tolsons, but the entire city recover in his book, black wall street.
Author Hannibal B Johnson writes, quote, riot victims, fondly referred to red cross workers as angels of mercy. One of the often unsung heroes who directed those relief efforts was director of relief for the American red cross. Maurice willows in 2018 semen high school student, Natalie Ford created a documentary called Maurice willows.
Unsung hero of the 1921 Tulsa race, right? That explores the story of willows in her award-winning project as part of the low Milken center for unsung heroes, which describes itself as an international nonprofit educational leader that discovers development. And communicates the stories of unsung heroes who have made a profound and positive impact on the course of history.
Ford was assisted by teachers, Susan, sit an hour and Nate McCallister
Mary Jones parish. A witness stated the firing of guns was renewed in quick succession. People were seen to flee from their burning homes, some with babes in their arms and leaning, crying children by the hand, others old and feeble, all fleeing to safety. Many reports stated that retired world war one airplanes were used to drop fire bombs on Greenwood and hundreds of African Americans were injured or killed as they were struck with.
Bricks or clubs were saw land
behind the car and going down first. However, the whore did not end as the city shut down during the riot, all phone systems and railways were cut and ambulances and red cross aid were not allowed into Greenwood. Eventually the governor declared martial law and the Oklahoma national guard arrested almost all residents of Greenwood and marched them at gunpoint through the streets.
These African Americans were detained in internment camps located in local ballparks and fairgrounds while white Tolsons continued to destroy their homes. The conditions were horrific as one reporter noted that inside the park was odorous heat, the crying of babies, the sound of many voices and the moaning of women and thousands of Negroes huddled together.
As far as the eye could see. The prisoners in the internment camps were given green cards that were used to identify them. And they were only released after a white Tulsan vouched for them. A community that worked tirelessly to build a successful and thriving neighborhood over decades was destroyed after just 18 hours of gruesome violence, 35 square blocks, and 1,200 Greenwood homes and businesses were obliterated.
The estimated death toll was near 300, although it remains uncertain. Due to the devastation and complete destruction of the black community. Then mayor TD Evans wrote an urgent letter to the red cross stating please establish headquarters for all relief work and bring all organizations who can assist you to your aid.
The responsibility is placed in your hands entirely in response, the director of relief for the red cross, Maurice willows went to Tulsa. Born in Clinton, Canada on April 16th, 1876. Willow's worked at the red cross headquarters in st. Louis during the late spring of 1921. And according to willows, I had sensed that back in the national office, certain changes on top levels of future red cross policy were in the making.
Looking ahead, I saw a return to the peacetime program of the organization. Willow's was one of the first red cross employees to be sent to the writing Tulsa after its cry for help and upon witnessing the horrific state of the city. He contacted the red cross headquarters in Washington, D C demanding to classify this riot as a natural disaster so that the organization could respond the head of the national red cross responded with permission for willows to take action.
As he saw fit. It is because of willows that for the first time in its history, the red cross responded to and cared for survivors of a catastrophe. That was not the result of nature, but rather a manmade disaster after being sent to Tulsa. Willow's wrote, it seemed clear that the trouble did not have any providential causes.
And as the red cross had never taken a hand in manmade disasters, I called Washington with a report that there was an unknown number of homeless refugees, all Negroes. There was no adequate relief organization in town on account of the divisions between the whites and Negros. The American red cross responded within the first 24 hours of the riot and found over 8,000 homeless African Americans.
The red cross also found that African Americans were denied adequate treatment and set up a makeshift hospital, any local school and manta to first aid and infant welfare stations. While working in Tulsa, a red cross nurse stated I can never erase the sites of my first visit to the hospital. They were men wounded in every conceivable way, like soldiers, after a big battle.
Some with amputated limbs burned faces others minus and I, or with heads bandaged. The red cross nurses assisted with 451 surgeries, vaccinated 841 people for tetanus, typhoid and smallpox prepared. Special feedings for 144 children and cared for 125 people with dysentery. Dick rollin remained safe in the County jail until the next morning when the police transported him out of town in secrecy, all charges were dropped.
As the rebuilding process began, the national guard ordered all able-bodied black men to clean up the damage that white Tolsons had caused. However, in a personal account written years after the riot, Willow's admitted, he deviated from official red cross policy. In order to advocate for black Tulsa's regarding the issue of rebuilding.
For example, Willow's developed a more permanent housing plan for the survivors of the riot as he planned to construct a more secure version of the red cross tents that were in effect until September of 1921. Additionally through the concerted efforts of Maurice willows and the red cross $40,000 of the city's budget was delegated to finish the relief program.
The red cross also remained in Tulsa for seven months, following the riot and provided the most sustained relief effort at a cost of more than $100,000.
when the attack on Greenwood ceased and the smoke cleared night had turned today and the morning sky revealed that black wall street was no more by the time the national guard arrived and declared martial law shortly before noon. The massacre was over, much of the district had been reduced to Ash and rebel.
According to the red cross, more than 1200 houses were burned to the ground. More than 200 others were looted businesses, a school stores, hotels and churches, all damaged or destroyed. For years, the actual death toll had never been clear according to the Tulsa historical society and museum historians now believe an estimated 300 people were killed.
Most of Tulsa's black residents were left homeless in the hours. After the Tulsa race massacre, all charges against Dick Roland were dropped. Remember him? The police concluded that Roland a 19 year old black man did not assault the 17 year old Caucasian girl named Sarah Page. As he was accused of doing they instead determined that Roland had most likely stumbled into Paige or stepped on her foot.
He had been guarded safely in the jail during the massacre. He left TOSA the next morning and reportedly never returned. Although the national guardsmen assisted with extinguishing some fires. They also imprisoned thousands of African American Tolsons. And by June 2nd, some 6,000 or so black people were under armed guard at the local fairgrounds.
This is how the aftermath of the Tulsa race massacre is described in the book Tulsa 1921. Reporting a massacre by Tulsa, world reporter and author, Randy Krehbiel, who we heard from previously in the podcast. He writes the destruction was not quite complete, but near enough, the black wall street of America lay in ashes, barely one brick on top of another from Archer to at least the girly Hill edition, a half mile North quote, Greenwood Avenue, principal business district, and the Negro district is a mass of broken bricks and debris.
In quote reported the next day's world. Quote, only gas and water pipes, bath fixtures bedsteads or other metal fixtures remained to Mark the places where homes went stood. The Negro residence is remaining intact. Can almost be counted on one's hand. There is not an undamaged business building owned by Negroes in the entire district in quotes.
More than 1200 buildings were destroyed. Those left standing with very few exceptions were looted and vandalized for white and black alike. The scene called to mind the barbarity of world war one, quote, the colored section of the town was wiped out and a long line of hopeless destitute, pitiful refugees fled northward from the burning town in quote.
The world wrote in a June 2nd editorial quote, the German invasion of Belgium with its awful consequences was no more unjustified or characterized with any greater cruelty. Now, Krehbiel is going to tell us what happened next in the aftermath of the massacre.
So Randy Krehbiel, you are a reporter at the Tulsa world, and you've been a reporter there for quite some time. And you are also now an expert when it comes to the Tulsa race massacre. And do you want to just tell me what your role is at the Tulsa world? Well, so what is Randy Crable? I'm a reporter at consults world.
Been there for 41 years. The book is Tulsa 1921 recording new massive step-by-step account of what happened here and also in the summer of 1921. Right. And the last time we talked to you was earlier in the podcast and you took us through the actual. Events, the events that led up to the massacre itself involving Dick Roland and Sarah Page this time, would you help us and walk us through the aftermath of the massacre?
So at this point, it's June 1st, the massacre itself started. In the evening or the night of May 31st. And now it is June 1st. It is daylight. What is happening now? And what role does the national guard play in bringing all of the fighting and burning and attack to a complete halt? What was going on was that the national guard was going through the arresting or, or detaining all the African Americans I could find and bringing them in.
And they were also arresting a few white people as the African American district, basically emptied out white people were coming in behind it and burning and looting and that sort of thing, African Americans, it seems at this point, many of them were being taken into custody and, uh, initially they were taken to convention hall.
Which was the biggest building in town basically. And when that filled up, then they began taking them to the minor league ballpark, which was, you know, a pretty secure area. It had a fence all the way around it as ballparks normally do, which allowed it to be guarded. There were also African Americans who had fled.
There were African Americans who had gone to. Refuge somewhere else, mainly in churches downtown. And then there were some who stayed behind inside and fight it out. So they're the national guard play kind of a dual role. Initially in some ways they were trying to maintain the order, but by coming in and basically emptying at this area, they were leaving it open for chords distraction.
So there were really two purposes for this. So this was quickly labeled Negro uprise, and this was being blind on the black man who had gone to the courthouse the day before with their guns. So there were two purposes for this one was supposedly to protect innocent African Americans to a certain extent.
That is true. I mean, that's an accurate description because those people. As far as I know, and anybody's ever said none of those people were killed the war. Some of them were probably mistreated, but the other purpose was to identify people who were considered to be provocateurs or instigators or however you want to think of them.
But again, what should have happened? And didn't, it was to protect the area Greenwood. There was nothing done to prevent the fire and looting shooting, whatever else went on, it was either a breakdown or there was willful intent to allow Greenwood to be destroyed. That was the outcome of it. And if they didn't realize that was going to happen, they should have realized.
So. They were either really negligent or where they were all fully involved. Now, the out of town national guard arrived when the morning and they had some problems because they were supposed to report to the sheriff and they couldn't find the sheriff to report to. In fact, they couldn't really find anybody to report to.
So they kind of. You know, stumbled around for a little bit. By the time they got there and got set up and everything, and it appears that most of the fighting was over. So the initial job it appears was to go with the fire department and help the fire department and protect the fire department. From people who didn't want him putting out the fires to finally try and get that fires burning in Greenwood under control.
The officials said that they believed at least 25 separate fires had been set. So that destroyed 35 square blocks or something in that same, right. The convention hall. And then later the field where the African Americans were taken. Ultimately ended up serving as internment camps where African Americans were not permitted to leave, unless what right.
They became pretty quickly. I sort of a combination of a detention camp and a place you could go if you didn't have anywhere else to go. So African Americans were not permitted to leave in less a white person vouched for them. And actually a lot of. People were released pretty quickly. There were a few people who actually never left Greenwood during all of this.
Mainly older people and especially older women never left, but by the afternoon of June 1st, there were already some people filtering back in there trying to see what was left of their homes and businesses. And you know, many of them found they didn't have any place. To go, but you were expected to carry tags or cards, badges, whatever you want to call them.
The ones I've seen were basically pieces of paper or cardboard that had a name on them. And basically they were a form of identification. You're supposed to wear it on your clothes. And it did two things. It said this person is authorized to be out. Moving about. And the second thing, which was, you liked it was we've checked them.
They're okay. And they're not to be bothered. In other words, they're not to be attacked. Some of the cards said police protection. Then again, the whole idea was that this was the result of some kind of outside agitators. And so, you know, it's very paternalistic, but. There was this idea that, well, our black folks wouldn't, you know, do something like this, but we're looking for these outside agitator.
No good mix that we want to figure out who they are. So it was probably five or 6,000. African-Americans taken into custody on June 1st. That's the best figures I can figure out. Just, you know, from what was said at the time, by the night of. Thursday June the second, there were about a thousand left. So the rest of them had all, either gone with someone they work for, their home was still intact.
They knew someone whose home was still intact. There's all sorts of stories about, you know, where people went. But anyway, they were moved out to the fairgrounds, to this exhibit hall. Which was set up as kind of a big barracks or dormitory, and it was open for two or three weeks. And the numbers slowly dwindled down until it was decided that it was no longer needed.
And so about how many days would you say African Americans were held in this makeshift internment camp essentially? Well, it was there at least two weeks, but it was gone by the end of June. So let's split the difference in say three weeks. So that's the longest. Anybody would have been there now while all of this was happening, black people from Greenwood, many of them, because they had to almost immediately went back to work.
In fact, they were practically forced immediately go back to work. That was, that was part of the condition of him being released from detention was that they had to have someplace to go or an employer vouch for them. And if they didn't have a job, they were often put to work the red cross, you know, there was such an issue at the time night.
Oh, we don't want to spoil these black people by letting them sit around and do nothing. So the red cross, you know, to keep everybody semi happy, what they would do is the red cross hired unemployed black man at 25 cents an hour. Now there was no minimum wage in those days, but 25 cents an hour seems to have been pretty much what the minimum wage was.
They hired these unemployment white men at 25 cents an hour and put them to work, cleaning up. The debris, you know, their own neighborhood that had been burned down. It appears at the city at times may have put men at the camp at the fairgrounds to work on road crews and without paying. And they were working for their, their meals and they're in a place to sleep.
So. The red cross set up their sort of headquarters at the Booker T Washington school in this tent camp and whatever. And they could buy food there. They could buy meals there. They could see a doctor according to willows. They had to pay for all of this. You know, it was probably some nominal amount cause they didn't want to bankrupt these people.
But the point was is that now they're not just sitting around doing nothing living, you know, I live. Now, I just want to interject one second because there is this really interesting passage in your book where you talk about African Americans in Tulsa who went back to work right after the riot. And you say, quote, incredibly some Greenwood residents went to work or try to as if nothing was amiss.
One of them. John Wheeler reported to work as a Porter at the first national bank, but told his supervisor that he did not feel well upon examination. It was discovered the elderly Wheeler had a bullet wound. He died later that day and was buried in his work uniform. Dave would testify that one of the men who came to his door, presumably the one that wanted to kill him, said that he had shot a man whose description seemed to match wheelers.
That was in here, but tell us that 1921 reporting a massacre, correct? Yeah. I mean, apparently there were people who were black people who were trying to get to work on the morning of June 1st, you know, while these bullets are flying around. And, you know, some people had a very strong sense of duty, I guess.
And based on your reporting and the news reports that you have researched when people finally did start to trickle back into green with the residents of Greenwood of black wall street, what did they see? What did the result of the attack look like to them? It must've really been crushing because every description is of a place it's utterly demolished.
Both the daily newspapers had descriptions of the only thing left were some metal fixtures. Bedsteads things like that. The Booker Washington school, which was a two story brick building was not mine. And some houses in the vicinity of the school were not burned. And there were a few other places further North, as you got away from the railroad tracks that were not burned, but, but the heart of the district, certainly the business district was, it was just a smoldering ruin.
So, I mean, these are people who, you know, had basically put their whole lives in the. Their property. And it was all gone in some, and maybe a lot of cases, people were actually allowed to remove their belongings from their home and stack them up on the sidewalk and their houses were burned, but then they had no way of keeping their staff.
So a lot of it was stolen. There's a few stories of people who had white neighbors who. Prevented their homes and their things from being taken. I have heard for the most part, it was, you know, you just you'd lost everything. It was either stolen or burned. The deaths of course are horrible. And you had people coming back into the district.
Many of them would have had family members or friends that they had no idea what had happened to them. They might be hiding in a. Field somewhere, they may be 30 miles away and they may be in the basement of a church somewhere. You used to know where they were and they were even classified ads in the newspapers after this of, you know, people looking for a family member.
We're in classified ads saying, you know, if you've seen this person, please contact us. In the last episode, we played recordings of Bishop Otis, G Clark, who was a survivor of the massacre. He lived to be over a hundred years old and he was describing how. His stepfather who lived with them after the massacre.
And they never found him again and presumed he was dead. It's very possible. I mean, you would think most people, if they were not heard from again, they would probably kill. Right. So now the question is, what do you do with this community of several thousand people who have obviously been displaced? Many of them, their entire livelihoods destroyed and their life savings gone.
And probably everything they've ever worked for also gone. What happens to all of these people now who have effectively no place to go. It's kind of interesting. So a lot, as I said, pretty quickly, they started moving into tents. Some of them are, there was a little bit of a controversy because some people who had African Americans living in there on the premises of their homes, in other words, in servant's quarters, Not only permitted their service to live there, but there were servants families, and even people they didn't even know.
And so some of the authorities didn't like that because they were, again, they were afraid there was going to be some big uprising and they tried to get those people brought to the fairgrounds and it doesn't appear that ever happened because. The population at the fairgrounds continued to go down instead of going up, which is what they expected when they said we want all these people.
So they were dispersed around. Some of them went to live with relatives, other places. Now in terms of what was the reaction of the white community and what sort of plans were made? The initial reaction was we have to, we have to make this right. And that pretty quickly ran into, into this difficulty. So my was outright opposition and some of it was just, it was a bigger task than they originally thought it would be.
The adjutant general and the attorney of the national guard had a community meeting with a lot of the business leaders and so forth and said, you are responsible for these people, not just today and not just tomorrow, but as long as it takes. And you was he directing that comment toward just the prominent white people in the community.
He was pretty angry. The adjutant general, Charles Barron, he called a meeting and demanded to know how they could have allowed such thing happened. And what was his background? You wrote about him extensively. He's kind of spindly and had this little toothbrush mustache, but anyway, He'd been a newspaper publisher.
He'd been a legislator. He was really kind of a democratic party insider the democratic party controlled the state at that time, but he'd also been involved with the national guard. Pretty much since he arrived in the first chair for him. And so he came in and pretty much shut the town down for a couple of days and pretty much the same control for several days.
This sounds like a very complicated figure because there weren't a lot of people. Who were of his background, who were very sympathetic to black people in Oklahoma at that time. So what was his reasoning for reprimanding? The leaders of Tulsa? I think there were two elements. One was that he was angry because all these people who had really, most of them had done nothing.
I had been mistreated. And the second was that he was angry, that this had been allowed to happen. And it was really such a blot on the record of, of the state and in a pretty outrageous failure of, of law and order. Where does his authorization come from? Is he acting in the capacity of a national guardsman or a leader in the national guard or who has essentially given him these marching orders?
A martial law was declared in Tulsa about 1115 on the morning of June, first of that year. And that was declared by the governor of Oklahoma at the recommendation of Charles Barrett. So his authority is the chief officer of the national guard. They'll call the national guard that puts him in control. So we're under martial law where the military law.
At this point, what is decided in terms of what will happen to these thousands of displaced and injured and homeless and likely hungry African-Americans in need of food, clothing, and shelter. There was no government entity that was set up to handle this. So at first it was kind of ad hoc and then some committees formed too.
You know, make sure that people at the fairgrounds with it to get clothing together and that sort of thing pretty quickly, this was turned over to the red cross and the local red cross officials immediately said, we are not equipped to handle this. So they contacted the national red cross, a man named Maurice willows, who was a kind of a chief.
And he was pretty high up in red cross. Although. He had actually turned in his resignation and he was going to go start to work somewhere else. And that very day on may, I can't remember, but I think May 31st was supposed to be his last day with the wreck on June 1st or second, the red cross contacted him and said, can you put everything on hold and go to Tulsa and try and figure out what to do there.
And so when he first went, he just thought he was going to be there short time. And that's what the red cross had always done in the past. They dealt mainly with natural disasters or something like that, where they'd go in and kind of get things set up. And then the national office would pull out. So Marise willows got here and immediately saw what a mess it was.
And it actually, my understanding is this was the first time the red cross had undertaken something like this. In the United States where they actually had to deal with the politics of things. They always tried to stay out of politics. Well, this was already pretty steeped in that, but anyway, some worries, willows was put in charge of managing the relief and over the next several months, Tulsa County allocated $60,000.
And the city of Tulsa allocated $40,000 for what was described as relief efforts, which included building materials and some other things there's about $30,000 of cash and supplies donated on top of that. So he had about 130,000 and most of that was turned over to him. So the red cross in the interim, they built.
Tents is that correct? Okay. The red cross, they built hundreds of tents for the African American community of Greenwood, which these people had to essentially live in through the summer, into the fall. Is that correct? That's right. Maurice willows. It was there until the end of December, the national red cross operation.
Okay. Well, it was out at the end of December, 1921. And at that time he reported, there were still 49 families living in Phoenix. So yeah, if I gradually moved other places, you know, they were able to build homes in Greenway, in Greenwood, or they moved somewhere else, but there were still wanting nine families living in tents on, on new year's Eve.
And this was, you know, part of the deal during the summer of 1921 willows and other people are saying, we got to quit messing around with this. We're going to have people living in tents in the middle of the winter, but still it dragged on until the end of the summer. And then apparently, you know, around September 1st things sped up quite a bit.
and the people who were able to return to Greenwood, many of them had you fin for themselves in terms of finding the money to build their new homes, if they were able to do so at all. And it was not easy. It was a matter of, you know, getting the materials. Some of them had to borrow money from their employers or friends, and that was a large feat.
And it's remarkable that so many people different turn to Greenwood to readouts, that is one of the most remarkable things is how many people stayed and how many people move there. I mean, they were African Americans who moved to Greenwood in the immediate activity because there were jobs. There's a family here that is fairly prominent.
There was one member of the family living here. At the time of the ride and he was a builder and afterwards he contacted his cousins and whatever in South Carolina and said, Hey, you guys ought to move up here. We're going to be doing a lot of bills. And they were all carpenters and things like that. So they came up here and went to work rebuilding.
You would think probably all or almost all of the African Americans would have left, but they didn't. Made so many people stay. I think in some cases it was because they still own this property. Yeah. And some of it might've been pride, you know, they're not going to run us out. A lot of them had family here.
Family would have been very important. I think a lot of it probably had to do with opportunity there. You know, there were still jobs here. And is it going to be any better if we go somewhere else? Because what happened here happened a lot of other places too. So if you leave here, where are you going to go?
You got to go to home home.
In the next step of sowed, we'll explore the fight for Greenwood and the legal fallout of the attack on what is otherwise known as black wall street. 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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