Justice  /  Primary Source

The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims

A witness to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots recounts the fear and violence of the destruction of Tulsa's black community.

I reached my office in safety; but I knew that that safety would be short-lived. I now knew the mob-spirit. I knew too that government and law and order had broken down. I knew that mob law had been substituted in all its fiendishness and barbarity. I knew that the mobbist cared nothing about the written law and the constitution and I also now knew that he had neither the patience nor the intelligence to distinguish between the good and the bad, the law abiding and the lawless in my race. From my office window, I could see places circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from the top. “What, an attack from the air too?”, I asked myself. Lurid flames roared and belched and licked their forked tongues in the air. Smoke ascended the sky in thick, black volumes and amid it all, the planes—now a dozen or more in number—still hummed and darted here and there with the agility of natural birds of the air. Then a filling station farther down East Archer caught on fire from the top. I feared now an explosion and decided to try and move to safer quarters. I came out of my office, locked the door and descended to the foot of the steps. The side-walks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught from the top. I paused and waited for an opportune time to escape.