175 Are Killed in Fierce Race Riots at Tulsa, Oklahoma

The Evening World (New York)/June 1, 1921

10 Blocks Burned in Riots; 2,000 Negroes Are Rounded Up

Martial Law is Declared and Troops are Rushed in To Save Whites and Negroes

White Residence Sections of City Saved From the Flames After All Night and Morning Shootings—Airplanes, Autos and Guns Used

TULSA, Okla., June 1 4.40 P.M. Bulletin.—Major Charles W. Daley of the police force this afternoon estimated the number of dead from the race clash here at 175.

He said he believed a number of negroes had been burned to death when their homes were swept by fire.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., June 1.—Seventy-five persons, whites and negroes, have been killed in the race outbreak in Tulsa, according to an earlier telephone message to Gov. Robertson from the Chief of Police at Tulsa.

Martial law in all Tulsa County was ordered by Gov. Robertson at 11.15 A.M. today and Adjt. Gen. Barrett was placed in command of the city. The order was given over the long-distance telephone after a talk with the General, who said it was impossible for the Fire Department to enter the negro section and that the flames were raging there with no successful effort toward getting them under control.

TULSA, Okla., June 1.—Nearly ten blocks of the negro section of Tulsa, where an armed conflict has been in progress between white men and negroes since early last night, resulting in the reported death of at least six whites and fifty negroes and a rapidly increasing list of wounded, were in flames today. At noon it was believed the white residential section would be saved.

At noon 2,000 negroes had been gathered at Convention Hall under guard. It was filled, as was also the police station. The remainder of those gathered up are being taken to the Baseball Park, all under armed guard.

A military commission composed of seven city officials and business men to pass upon the status of 6,000 negroes held under guard in improvised prison camps was formed by Mayor T.D. Evans and Chief of Police Gustafson, with the approval of Gen. Barrett.

As soon as it was dawn this morning firing came from a spot where throughout the early morning hours 500 white men and 1,000 negroes faced each other across railroad tracks.

First reports to Police Headquarters said that the bodies of from six to ten negroes could be seen lying in a space described as “No Man’s Land.”

The police also had a report that three railway switchmen and a brakeman had been shot to death.

The trainmen were killed, it was reported, because they refused to permit members of the opposing crowds to ride upon a switch engine passing between the lines. The engineer was reported to have escaped.

Two white men killed in the riot were Carl D. Lotriesch, twenty-three, Randall, Kan., shot in the back with buckshot. The body of another was later identified as Walter Baggs, twenty-seven, of Tulsa. His parents live at Leroy, N.Y. A twenty-year-old white boy named Olson was killed at the railroad station.

In a fresh outbreak at 7.30 o’clock in the Standpipe Hill District, in the extreme northern end of the negro quarter, Mrs. S. A. Gilmore, a white woman, was shot in the left arm and side. Mrs. Gilmore was standing on the front porch of her home when she was shot by a negro, one of a score or more barricaded in a church.

Occupants of the last car to go through the negro district this morning reported that fully 1,000 armed negroes were still to be seen.

Soon after the first appearance of the negroes last night in the street were filled with shouting, gesticulating men. Suddenly there was a rush for sporting goods houses and hardware stores, where the crowds broke in and armed themselves with whatever weapons they could find. Guardsmen were used to disperse the rioters at the stores, and a military order confiscated all stocks of arms in the city until the disturbance could be put down.

The trouble is reported to have been the result of the arrest late yesterday of Dick Rowland, negro, for an alleged assault on an orphan girl.

Set Negro Quarter on Fire Twice

The first attempts to fire the negro quarter were made about 1.30 o’clock this morning, when white men openly threatened to destroy the locality. Two houses at Archer and Boston, used by more than fifty negroes as a garrison, were set afire at that time and an alarm was turned in. Efforts of the Fire Department to lay hose were stopped by a crowd of armed white men and the department returned to its station.

The attempt to destroy the negro quarter by fire was resumed five hours later when almost simultaneously fire began to burst forth from the doors and windows of frame shacks along Archer Street. Soon dense clouds of black smoke enveloped the location. Under cover of the smoke screen armed men in motor cars and afoot threw a cordon about the place where the negroes were stationed and occasional shots gave warning that the conflict still waged.

As the fire enveloped the houses negroes were seen to dart out from flaming doorways with upraised hands, shouting “Don’t shoot!” As they dashed through the smoke they were ordered to surrender and were quickly removed to the prison camps.

State troops, under the command of Adjutant General C. F. Barrett, arrived at 9 o’clock to take charge of the situation, augmenting local units of guardsmen who were called out last night. At this time there were reports of sporadic shooting and the situation seemed to be easing.

Negro Section Surrounded by Cars

Detachments of guardsmen were scattered throughout the city prepared to meet all emergencies with machine guns ready for action. Guards, surrounded the armory, while others . . . rounding up negroes and segregating them in the jail, convention hall, baseball fields and other places which had been turned into prison camps.

The situation was further aggravated this morning by reports from Muskogee that crowds of negroes that were arming themselves and preparing come to the assistance of those of their race in Tulsa. Muskogee advices said that the officials there were guarding all highways to prevent the departure of negroes from that city.

As the dawn broke sixty or seventy motor cars filled with armed white men formed a circle completely around the negro section. Half a dozen airplanes circled overhead. There was much shouting and shooting. A row of houses along the railroad tracks was fired, but lack of wind prevented the flames from spreading. A part of white riflemen was reported to be shouting at all negroes they saw and firing into houses. The negroes were said to be returning the fire dispiritedly.

Dick Howland, the negro whose attempted rescue started the rioting, was removed from the county jail during the night and spirited out of town by deputies from Sheriff McCullough’s office. They refused to divulge his whereabouts. Officers said the negro would be given a speedy trial just as soon as the situation quited down.

Gen. Barrett in Charge of Troops

Adjt. Gen. Barrett, who arrived at 9 A.M., took up his headquarters at City Hall and announced that Col. B. H. Markham of Oklahoma City would be in command of field operations of the guardsmen. Gen. Barrett, who is working under the direction of the Sheriff, Mayor and Chief of Police, said he would continue to do so until he deemed it necessary to change command.

The negroes assembled as refugees and prisoners at the baseball park. Convention Hall and other places were being card for by civic organizations ad private citizens who volunteered for the work. Ice water and sandwiches were being served and the wounded or sick were receiving medical attention.

Throughout the morning long lines of negroes streamed westward along the streets leading to Convention Hall. Many wore their night clothes and were barefooted. Their sunken eyes told of a sleepless night and their ashen faces bespoke gripping fear.
Men, women and children carried bundles of clothing on their heads and backs. The articles they saved were varied, and in many cases would have been ludicrous but for the gravity of the situation. Here an old woman clung to a Bible, there a girl with disheveled hair carried a big wax doll.

Negroes Won’t Spare the Firemen

“We can’t use our fire equipment for the reason,” says R.C. Alder, Fire Chief, “that it would mean a fireman’s life to turn a stream of water on one of those negro buildings. They shot at us all morning when we were trying to do something, but none of my men was hit. There is not a chance in the world to get through that mob into the negro district.

“We have fire lines protecting the warehouses on the Katy Railroad and I think we have them saved. If the wind should change the white residence section east of the negro district would be menaced.

“The fire has swept Greenwood Street, where the negro business section was located, and is sweeping around the hill to the north. So far the white residence section on the north has not been touched.”

Chief Alder indicated that he was prepared to call for outside assistance in case it becomes necessary.