discovery of oil in 1901,
changed from a cow-town to a boomtown. At the nearby community of Red
Fork, a giant oil deposit was found and wildcatters and investors
began to flood the city of
bringing along their families and settling in. New neighborhoods were
soon established on the north side of the
Arkansas River and the town
began to spread out in all directions from downtown.
years later, in 1905, a new, even larger oil discovery was made in
nearby Glenn Pool that would lead to
golden age of the 1920s and its title as the "Oil Capital of the
World." Many early oil companies chose
their home base.
By 1920, Tulsa was called home to almost
100,000 people and 400 different oil companies. The booming town
boasted two daily newspapers, four telegraph companies, more than
10,000 telephones, seven banks, 200 attorneys and more than 150
doctors, as well as numerous other businesses.
the 1920s looked very promising for the burgeoning city, it would soon
see one of the most gruesome and devastating race riots in U.S.
whole thing began on May 30, 1921, when Dick Rowland, a black
shoe-shine boy, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, an elevator
operator in the Drexel Building at Third and Main. Page claimed
that Rowland grabbed her arm, causing her to flee in panic. A clerk at
a nearby store insisted that Rowland had tried to rape Page. Accounts of the incident circulated among the city's white community
during the day and became more exaggerated with each telling.
Tulsa police arrested Rowland the following day
and began an investigation. Following Rowland's arrest on May 31,
1921, the Tulsa
Tribune printed a story that Rowland had attacked her, scratching her hands and face
and tearing her clothes. In the same newspaper that day was an editorial
that stated that a hanging was planned for that night.
Tightly in the grip of the Ku Klux Klan,
no time in forming a lynch mob that evening around the courthouse intent
upon the execution of Dick Rowland. To stave off the lynch mob, the
sheriff and his men were forced to barricade the top floor to protect
A group of blacks also converged around
the courthouse in an attempt to defend Rowland. When a white man in the
crowd confronted an armed black man attempting to wrest the gun from him,
a scuffle ensued and the white man was killed. Immediately, a riot began.
The outnumbered blacks began retreating
to the Greenwood Avenue business district while truckloads of whites set
fires and shot them on sight. Far into the early morning hours of
the next day Black
Tulsa was looted and burned by white rioters. The Greenwood district,
known nationally as "Black Wall Street" for its economic success was a