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Topics in Chronicling America - The Tulsa Race Riot

On May 31, 1921, Dick Howland is imprisoned for allegedly assaulting a white woman. By dawn the next day, the black neighborhood of Greenwood, nicknamed “Little Africa,” lay in smoking ruins. The Tulsa Race Riot resulted in thousands of dollars of damage, dozens killed, and represented the culmination of post-World War I racial tensions in Oklahoma. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Picture of burned neighborhood.

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • May 31, 1921. Dick Rowland is arrested and charged with assaulting a white female elevator operator. Groups of Tulsans arm themselves, some wanting to protect Rowland, others bent on lynching him. A mob assembles at the courthouse where Rowland is being held. Hardware stores and pawn shops are looted of guns and ammunition as the situation spirals out of control.
  • June 1, 1921. Between midnight and 6AM, white mobs invade “Little Africa,” shooting African American residents and burning homes and businesses. By dawn, the black district of Tulsa is in ruins. Governor Robertson declares martial law at 11:30AM
  • June 3, 1921. Martial law is lifted in Tulsa at 5PM.
  • June 3, 1921. United States Attorney General Daugherty orders an investigation into the riots.
  • June 3, 1921. Oklahoma Governor Robertson orders Oklahoma Attorney General Freeling to investigate the situation, and preserve evidence for a grand jury.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Riot, Tulsa, race, war, Rowland.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event. For this event, May 31, 1921 is a good starting date.
  • Use the Advanced Search to find the words race and riot or race and war in proximity to each other.
  • For out of town newspapers, use the Advanced Search to find the words riot and Tulsa in proximity to each other.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  August 9, 2016
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