Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old African American who worked as a shoeshine, was riding the elevator in the Drexel Building. The elevator operator, a young white woman named Sarah Page, claimed that Rowland grabbed her arm, causing her to scream and flee in panic. The story of the alleged attack sped through the white community, becoming more elaborate and fearsome with each recounting. The next day, Tulsa police arrested Rowland and began their investigation.
Mass of whites began a rampage, killing blacks and destroying thousands of homes and business in the African American community of Greenwood, just outside Tulsa.
The deputies and Tulsa-based units of the National Guard began to sweep through Greenwood, disarming and arresting the residents, then taking them to "concentration" camps around the city, ostensibly for their protection.
The NAACP sent a representative to Tulsa, OK, within a few hours of the beginning of a massive race riot in 1921. The riot lasted from May 31-June 2, and several survivors were brought to the New York City office of the NAACP to provide eyewitness accounts that were published in several white-owned newspapers.
April 1922, more than 1,700 Klan members marched through downtown Tulsa while an airplane carrying an electrically lighted cross flew overhead.
August 1923, Gov. J.C. Walton declared martial law in Tulsa County because of Klan activity.
The old Tulsa County Courthouse, where Dick Rowland was held and the shooting began, was demolished in 1960 to make way for a 32-story bank building.
Fifty years later, many inhabitants of Tulsa, white or black, had never heard of the riot.
On the 50th anniversary of the riot in 1971, an article on the racial conflagration crossed Ross' desk. The article had been rejected by the Tulsa newspapers since it touched on a subject deemed too controversial.
With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report to establish the historical record of the events, and acknowledge the victims and damages to the black community.
Attorneys for the victims and their descendants have argued that a report issued in 2001 disclosed new information about the riot and that it was not until after the end of the Jim Crow era in the 1960s that courts became receptive to civil rights lawsuits.
A federal lawsuit was filed against the state of Oklahoma, city of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department on behalf of about 200 survivors and descendents of blacks living in Greenwood at the time of the riot.
Senator Lankword Recognizes 95th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot with Senate Speech.