Tulsa, 1921: Reporting a Massacre

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University of Oklahoma Press, Sep 19, 2019 - Social Science - 328 pages

In 1921 Tulsa’s Greenwood District, known then as the nation’s “Black Wall Street,” was one of the most prosperous African American communities in the United States. But on May 31 of that year, a white mob, inflamed by rumors that a young Black man had attempted to rape a white teenage girl, invaded Greenwood. By the end of the following day, thousands of homes and businesses lay in ashes, and perhaps as many as three hundred people were dead.

Tulsa, 1921 shines new light into the shadows that have long been cast over this extraordinary instance of racial violence. With the clarity and descriptive power of a veteran journalist, author Randy Krehbiel digs deep into the events and their aftermath and investigates decades-old questions about the local culture at the root of what one writer has called a white-led pogrom.

Krehbiel analyzes local newspaper accounts in an unprecedented effort to gain insight into the minds of contemporary Tulsans. In the process he considers how the Tulsa World, the Tulsa Tribune, and other publications contributed to the circumstances that led to the disaster and helped solidify enduring white justifications for it. Some historians have dismissed local newspapers as too biased to be of value for an honest account, but by contextualizing their reports, Krehbiel renders Tulsa’s papers an invaluable resource, highlighting the influence of news media on our actions in the present and our memories of the past.

The Tulsa Massacre was a result of racial animosity and mistrust within a culture of political and economic corruption. In its wake, Black Tulsans were denied redress and even the right to rebuild on their own property, yet they ultimately prevailed and even prospered despite systemic racism and the rise during the 1920s of the second Ku Klux Klan. As Krehbiel considers the context and consequences of the violence and devastation, he asks, Has the city—indeed, the nation—exorcised the prejudices that led to this tragedy?

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User Review  - VintageReader - LibraryThing

I think some readers are missing the point of this book: it's coverage *of the reporting* of the massacre, just like it says in the subtitle. I thought the author did an excellent job of making that ... Read full review


List of Illustrations Foreword by Karlos K Hill Preface
May 30
The Story That Set Tulsa Ablaze
Mob Spirit and Fever Heat
It Must Not Be Again
Directed Verdict
The New Negro
Trials and Tribulations
The Years Since
List of Key Figures Chronology

Wounds of Passion

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About the author (2019)

Randy Krehbiel has been a reporter for the Tulsa World since 1979 and now covers political and governmental affairs in Oklahoma and the United States. He is the author of Tulsa’s Daily World: The Story of a Newspaper and Its Town.

Karlos K. Hill is Associate Professor and Chair of the Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory.