Destroying ‘Black Wall Street’: An Illustrated History of the Tulsa Race Massacre

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Editor’s Note: The following may include first-person accounts of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that contain graphic depictions and outdated racial terminology. We have chosen not to edit these survivor stories so as not to clutter their stories with interpretation or exclusion. This graphic novel was originally released in 2021 in conjunction with the 100 Years Later package.

In 1921, a wealthy class of African-American entrepreneurs was growing up in Greenwood. Many white citizens were beginning to resent their success

According to a 2005 National Park Service report, on May 30, 1921, a black teenager named Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a white woman, Sarah Page, in the elevator of the Drexel building.

According to a 2005 National Park Service report, on May 30, 1921, a black teenager named Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a white woman, Sarah Page, in the elevator of the Drexel building.

Fearing charges, Rowland fled to his home in Greenwood.  He was arrested later that afternoon and taken to jail, but was never charged with a crime, and his alleged accuser was never heard from again.

Fearing charges, Rowland fled to his home in Greenwood. He was arrested later that afternoon and taken to jail, but was never charged with a crime, and his alleged accuser was never heard from again.

An article published in the Tulsa Tribune on the afternoon of May 31 included racist language that also implied aggression.  There were also rumors of an editorial suggesting that Rowland should be lynched.

An article published in the Tulsa Tribune on the afternoon of May 31 included racist language that also implied aggression. There were also rumors of an editorial suggesting that Rowland should be lynched.

Just before sunset, a group of white men gathered outside the courthouse where the teenager was being held.  They demanded that Rowland be released to them, only to be turned away.

Just before sunset, a group of white men gathered outside the courthouse where the teenager was being held. They demanded that Rowland be released to them, only to be turned away.

At 9 p.m., a group of 25 armed black men, many of whom were World War I veterans, left Greenwood and proceeded to the courthouse.  They offered their help to the authorities to thwart Rowland's lynching.

At 9 p.m., a group of 25 armed black men, many of whom were World War I veterans, left Greenwood and proceeded to the courthouse. They offered their help to the authorities to thwart Rowland’s lynching.

At 9:30 p.m., the number of white men and black men began to increase outside the courthouse.  As tensions rose, fighting began.  Outnumbered, the Black defenders retreated to the rail yard and eventually to Greenwood.

At 9:30 p.m., the number of white men and black men began to increase outside the courthouse. As tensions rose, fighting began. Outnumbered, the Black defenders retreated to the rail yard and eventually to Greenwood.

After numerous skirmishes, the fighting ceased.  At 5 a.m., a siren reportedly began to sound.  Immediately a machine gun began firing from Standpipe Hill in Greenwood.

After numerous skirmishes, the fighting ceased. At 5 a.m., a siren reportedly began to sound. Immediately a machine gun began firing from Standpipe Hill in Greenwood.

Simultaneously, a large number of white citizens launched an assault on Greenwood.  Many of the men delegated to stop the resistance had been involved in the fighting hours before.

Simultaneously, a large number of white citizens launched an assault on Greenwood. Many of the men delegated to stop the resistance had been involved in the fighting hours before.

A group of white men called

A group of white men called the “Home Guard” began breaking into African American homes and businesses. Looting and violence broke out.

George Monroe, was five years old at the time of the massacre and remembers the Greenwood attacks.

George Monroe, was five years old at the time of the massacre and remembers the Greenwood attacks.

House by house, block by block, the fire was set in Greenwood.  Several survivors recall machine gun attacks and attacks by aircraft, firing and throwing incendiary devices.

House by house, block by block, the fire was set in Greenwood. Several survivors recall machine gun attacks and attacks by aircraft, firing and throwing incendiary devices.

Eldoris McCondichie remembers fleeing the area and seeking refuge in a chicken coop.

Eldoris McCondichie remembers fleeing the area and seeking refuge in a chicken coop.

Black residents and homeowners continued to fight back.  Resisters or anyone found with a firearm were shot.  The occupants were forced out to be taken to the waiting areas.

Black residents and homeowners continued to fight back. Resisters or anyone found with a firearm were shot. The occupants were forced out to be taken to the waiting areas.

The attack on Black Wall Street and the Greenwood neighborhood left nine thousand people homeless.  In the end, all that remained were the outlines of once successful businesses and the charred foundations where houses once stood.

The attack on Black Wall Street and the Greenwood neighborhood left nine thousand people homeless. In the end, all that remained were the outlines of once successful businesses and the charred foundations where houses once stood.

The whites had looted the structures and stolen everything from cars to clothes.  News reports soon after the massacre put the total damage at two and a half million dollars.  After the riots, the American Red Cross provided tents for residents, but residents, businesses, and churches received no further assistance after the massacre.  Many left Tulsa and never returned.

The whites had looted the structures and stolen everything from cars to clothes. News reports soon after the massacre put the total damage at two and a half million dollars. After the riots, the American Red Cross provided tents for residents, but residents, businesses, and churches received no further assistance after the massacre. Many left Tulsa and never returned.

Illustrated by Todd Pendleton. Story produced by Mason Callejas.

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This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Tulsa Race Illustrated Massacre: Black Wall Street Attack Timeline

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