Cover image for Riot and remembrance : the Tulsa race war and its legacy
Riot and remembrance : the Tulsa race war and its legacy
Hirsch, James S.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
Physical Description:
viii, 358 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F704.T92 R56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
F704.T92 R56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F704.T92 R56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
F704.T92 R56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
F704.T92 R56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A best-selling author investigates the causes of the twentieth century's deadliest race riot and how its legacy has scarred and shaped a community over the past eight decades.

On a warm night in May 1921, thousands of whites, many deputized by the local police, swarmed through the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing scores of blacks, looting, and ultimately burning the neighborhood to the ground. In the aftermath, as many as 300 were dead, and 6,000 Greenwood residents were herded into detention camps.

James Hirsch focuses on the de facto apartheid that brought about the Greenwood riot and informed its eighty-year legacy, offering an unprecedented examination of how a calamity spawns bigotry and courage and how it has propelled one community's belated search for justice. Tulsa's establishment and many victims strove to forget the events of 1921, destroying records pertaining to the riot and refusing even to talk about it. This cover-up was carried through the ensuing half-century with surprising success. Even so, the riot wounded Tulsa profoundly, as Hirsch demonstrates in a compelling combination of history, journalism, and character study. White Tulsa thrived, and the city became a stronghold of Klan activity as workingmen and high civic officials alike flocked to the Hooded Order. Meanwhile, Greenwood struggled as residents strove to rebuild their neighborhood despite official attempts to thwart them. As the decades passed, the economic and social divides between white and black worlds deepened. Through the 1960s and 1970s, urban renewal helped to finish what the riot had started, blighting Greenwood. Paradoxically, however, the events of 1921 saved Tulsa from the racial strife that befell so many other American cities in the 1960s, as Tulsans white and black would do almost anything to avoid a reprise of the riot.

Hirsch brings the riot's legacy up to the present day, tracing how the memory of the massacre gradually revived as academics and ordinary citizens of all colors worked tirelessly to uncover evidence of its horrors. Hirsch also highlights Tulsa's emergence at the forefront of the burgeoning debate over reparations. RIOT AND REMEMBRANCE shows vividly, chillingly, how the culture of Jim Crow caused not only the grisly incidents of 1921 but also those of Rosewood, Selma, and Watts, as well as less widely known atrocities. It also addresses the cruel irony that underlies today's battles over affirmative action and reparations: that justice and reconciliation are often incompatible goals. Finally, Hirsch details how Tulsa may be overcoming its horrific legacy, as factions long sundered at last draw together.

Author Notes

James S. Hirsch is a former reporter for the "New York Times" & the "Wall Street Journal." He lives in Needham, Massachusetts.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"But our boys who had learned their lesson/ On the blood-stained soil of France/ How to fight on the defensive/ Proposed not to take a chance." This rousing piece of verse is not a post-WWI veterans' drinking song but a poem recounting African-American resistance to a white riot ignited when blacks banded together to stop a 1921 Tulsa, Okla., lynching. But despite the bravery displayed, the riot, which was the worst in U.S. history, was a cataclysmic event in which the entire prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood 1,256 homes, churches, stores, schools, hospitals and a library was looted and burned to the ground, while three hundred people were killed and the black residents were finally forced at gunpoint into detention centers. Even more shocking is that the event has been virtually wiped from history with newspaper accounts, police records and state militia records destroyed. Hirsch's reconstruction of this history, which reads as a horrifying narrative, is illuminating and grim. Relying on oral histories, investigative journalism, court and archival records as well as published memoirs and government reports, Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Hurricane Carter) paints a complex portrait of a prosperous city where oil was discovered in 1901 and where African-Americans had obtained some degree of economic and cultural independence in a state with an already troubled history of racial tension. Political organizing by the International Workers of the World in 1917 had set the stage for social unrest; veteran status gave black men a new identity after WWI. Hirsch unearths an important episode in U.S. history with verve, intelligence and compassion. (Feb.) Forecast: This book may not hit bestseller lists, but it could be shortlisted for awards. The fight for economic compensation to Greenwood's victims can be related to the larger current struggle for reparations for African-Americans. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The author of the best-selling Hurricane reconstructs America's worst race riot the storming of Tulsa's Greenwood section that left 300 African Americans dead. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Contents Introduction 1 1 The Self-Made Oil Capital Early in the twentieth century, it was inevitable that a big city would develop somewhere in the desolate, rolling landscape that sat above North America's largest pool of oil. The Mid-Continent field, beneath parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, helped fuel the Model T Fords that put Americans on the road, the trains that transported them across the country, and the ships and planes that prevailed in World War I. The field transformed a land of wheat, cotton, and cattle into a vital industrial resource and turned tired villages into vibrant cities. The city that best exploited this pool would be crowned the Oil Capital of the World. That city should not have been Tulsa, Oklahoma. For all the oil that gushed from the Oklahoma soil, not a drop was ever found in this prairie community on the edge of the Ozark Plateau. Tulsa could supply oilmen with the equipment, financing , and amenities that made their work possible and their lives pleasant, but many other towns were far better suited to serve them. Muskogee, fifty miles southeast of Tulsa, was the seat of the federal government that ruled the Indian Territory that became the eastern half of Oklahoma with statehood in 1907. In 1905Muskogee had 12,000 citizens more than twice as many as Tulsaas well as paved streets, a trolley, and the seven-story Turner Hotel, the finest lodging between Kansas City and Dallas. Also bigger than Tulsa was nearby Bartlesville, which discovered oil in 1897, as well as Vinita, Claremore, Okmulgee, Sapulpa, and a dozen other settlements that dotted the grasslands. They viewed Tulsa as a drab cattle town with one railroad, a dirty train depot, and a huddle of crude wooden houses. A visitor in 1905 recalled that the city lacked even its own postcard. Located along a curl in the Arkansas River, where the oak- laden foothills of the Ozarks blend into the tawny landscape of the Great Plains, Tulsa was settled in 1836 by Creek Indians from Alabama. They called their village Lochapoka, "place of turtles." The first white settlers arrived in the early 1880s, but "Tulsey Town, " as they called it, held little promise other than as a trading post for farmers. At the turn of the century, it was literally a cow town, with thousands of head of cattle routinely driven through its center, rutting streets, trampling gardens, and trailing clouds of dirt. The roads were dust storms in dry weather, swamps in rain. Residents insisted that the streets not be wider than eighty feetanything greater was too far to walk in the mud. Main Street was gray and pungent, with no sidewalks, streetlights, or sewers. First and Second streets, littered with watermelon rinds and horse apples, intersected Main. The smell of freshly killed animals pervaded the Frisco Meat Market, which paid cash for hides and proudly hung on its storefront the pink carcasses of deer, raccoons, rabbits, quail, and prairie chickens. Pigs and cattle roamed the streets at will, and mosquitoes bred by the millions in the rain barrels at each store, which offered the only water for horse-drawn fire wagons. It sometimes wasn't enough. In 1897 a blaze destroyed the city's first bank, three masonry buildings, and twelve wooden structures. Schools and churches were small white frame buildings, outhouses stood behind homes, and water faucets disgorged clumps of dirt. The briny brown liquid came from the Arkansas River, which was dangerous to drink (wells provided a limited supply of potable water) and barely fit for bathing. River water gathered in tubs left a thin layer of dirt, and bathers had to towel the granules off their bodies. The river was also an economic liability: its wide sandy bed and sudden freshets made it difficult to navigate. Steam ferries ground to a halt as cattle ambled in the river past the hapless passenger boats. The Arkansas separated Tulsa from the oil and gas fields west of the city, which gave other towns the edge in serving the petroleum companies and their suppliers. Other handicaps, both natural and manmade, deterred growth. The long summers were inescapably hot, forcing families to sleep on mattresses outside their homes. Tulsa had telephonesthree hundred in 1905but no phone book. The city was further crippled by its inadequate facilities; raising money for public services was almost impossible before statehood. When the Robinson Hotel, a converted livery stable, was built in 1904, the re was no sewage system, so the hotel ran its waste into an open ditch a few blocks away. Protesting neighbors won an injunction against the hotel, which eventually built its own sewage lines directly to the river. Its owner then held a "sewer banquet" for thirty-two of the protesters. Tulsa's raw frontier image was shaped by the spitfire cowboys who rode into town, filled up on illegal whiskey, and dashed through the streets shooting at lighted windows. They sometimes fired pistols over the heads of congregants leaving church, the screams of the women delighting the provocateurs. Tulsa tolerated outlaws, even offering them sanctuary. Bill Doolin, whose gang terrorized banks, trains, and post offices, was an occasional resident, and the four Dalton brothers were fixtures. Their exploits robbing and terrorizing innocents had been luridly described in the press, and they boldly walked down Tulsa's streets, ate at its cafs, attended its churches, and purchased large quantities of gunpowder and ammunition from its merchants. Rumors of Dalton raids sometimes forced shopkeepers to barricade their stores with sugar sacks and barrels, and armed men kept watch for the outlaws on rooftops. But the attacks never materialized. Years later, Tulsans would fondly remember the Daltons for their quiet, courteous manner, but the city's renown as a haven for bandits contributed to its lawless reputation. In 1900, only two years after its incorporation, Tulsa was a grim, isolated backwater of 1,300 people, lost among the many prairie towns of the Oklahoma and Indian territories. These communities were soon dealt a devastating blow by technical advancements in agriculture. The arrival of tractors and combines eliminated most field hands. The sharecropper became expendable, and as marginal farmers moved on, many towns and villages languished or disappeared entirely. That could have been Tulsa's fate. Instead, it became one of the most remarkable boomtowns in American history, and it did so with a can-do bravado and a shameless boosterism that shaped its self- image for the rest of the century.To survive and prosper, Tulsa's pioneers first had to overcome the physical and economic liabilities of the Arkansas River. In 1901 the area's first major oil discovery occurred at Red Fork, a hamlet three miles southwest of Tulsa. With newspapers across the country trumpeting the "Great Oil Strike, "Red Fork drew throngs of oil workers and investors, most of whom bypassed Tulsa to avoid the expense and time of crossing the treacherous water on unpredictable ferries. In response, Tulsa's leaders wanted to build a bridge across the Arkansas for pedestrians and wagons, so they submitted a bond issue; voters, suspecting the oil craze would be short-lived, defeated it. It looked like Tulsa would miss its chance. But three private citizens raised $50,000 on their own and built a toll crossing, the 11th Street Wagon Bridge. Opening on January 4, 1904, the steel bridge soon carried the tools and lumber traveling to Red Fork. Its inscription read: YOU SAID WE COULDN'T DO IT, BUT WE DID. Near this bridge was an older crossing used by Tulsa's one railroad, the Frisco. Business leaders prodded the Frisco to send special daily trains to and from the Red Fork oil fields so that workers could escape from the grease and grime. Each morning, the oilmen from Tulsa ate a massive breakfast at the Pig's Ear, across from the train station, while the proprietor's wife packed their lunches. Then they boarded a fifteen-car train called Coal Oil Johnny, which passed through Sapulpa and dropped off workers in and around Red Fork. In the evening it brought them back to Tulsa, where a boomtown was slowly taking shape. The drillers, tool dressers, roustabouts, and investors rubbed elbows with the railroad men, cowboys, and merchants as they sat down to the best fried chicken in all the oil country. Ultimately, the Red Fork strike produced far less petroleum than expected. Its peak of a hundred barrels a day fell short of a great gusher, and its production soon dissipated to five or six daily barrels. But Tulsa had established its name in the oil patch. Bridging the river was one challenge, but even more important was linking Tulsa to the rail network that was now connecting destinations in the Oklahoma and Indian territories and beyond. The pioneers did not leave this matter to luck or fate. In 1901 the Katy Railroad announced plans to complete a line from Muskogee to Pawhuska; the new rails would cross the Frisco tracks about seven miles east of Tulsa, sending its traffic to competing towns. All the oil in the world wouldn't save Tulsa if the trains were taking the financiers and roughnecks to other communities, so the city's leaders hastily formed the Tulsa Commercial Club, which later became the Chamber of Commerce. Club officials approached Katy's executives with their own survey and insisted that running the line through Tulsa would create a shorter and less expensive route to their final destination. To help persuade the railroad men, the Tulsans also pledged to secure a right-of-way (valued at $3,000) and gave a "bonus'others called it a bribeof $12,000 (or about $239,000 in 2000 dollars) that came in a promissory note underwritten by virtually every merchant and business in the city. Tulsa got the railroad, and the businessmen who represented the city grew rich in the coming oil bonanza. Three years later, the Commercial Club used the same strategy to forge another link to the outside world when the Midland Valley Railroad announced it would place a line through Red Fork. To convince the Midland officials to direct their rail through Tulsa, this time the "bonus" was $15,000. That year the city also convinced another railroad (the Santa Fe) to redirect its tracks through Tulsa, this time with no financial sweeteners. Coaxing the railroads to Tulsa secured the city's future as the major distribution point for the petroleum industry throughout the Southwest, and it sealed the doom of its immediate rivals, including Red Fork. What's more, it established a pattern that was reinforced many times over the years: when Tulsa had a problem, its business leaders solved it. They were self-made men building a self- made city, and their work had just begun. They had figured out how to bring people to Tulsa on rail and over water; now they devised a plan to attract those people. They needed a massive public relations campaign (before public relations had even been invented), and they got it with their barnstorming boosters. In 1905 Tulsa's leaders decided to take the story of their city directly to the country. One hundred of the town's leading citizens donated one hundred dollars each and chartered a train to carry them 2,500 miles through scores of midwestern cities and towns. This group was dubbed the One Hundred Club, although only eighty nine men actually went. On the eve of their departure, their wives and children worked throughout the night to decorate the train with streamers and banners touting Tulsa as oil country. Attached to the side of a coach was a huge map of the Oklahoma and Indian territories and a picture of a large derrick. Outsiders thought the venture pointless. Tulsa was not on most maps, so why would anyone move there? But the One Hundred Club created its own frenzy. The men sent telegrams to other cities" business clubs and newspapers asking to be met at the train depot so they "could induce a few hundred men of money to locate in the greatest city in the world." The train carried a printing press borrowed from the Tulsa Democrat; at each stop, it cranked out pretentious news pages, one of which read in part:Tulsa wasn't on the map because it grew faster than maps can be printed. Tulsa was a magnificent metropolis of seven churches and not a single saloon. The clink of one dollar against the other was in Tulsa's national air. Wearing bowler hats and dark overcoats, the Tulsans brought their trombones, tubas, and drums, heralding their arrival at each stop by blaring songs and waving American flags. But they also needed a feature act to turn out the crowds, so they asked a young cowboy named Bill Rogers, who lived in Claremore, twenty-nine miles away, to join them. Years later, as Will Rogers, his virtuoso roping skills were captured in movies, and his wit earned him fame as a writer and humorist. But on this trip he dazzled crowds with his lariathe roped a group of men in the pit of the Chicago Board of Tradeand fashioned Tulsa's reputation as a magical place. The booster train created a windfall of publicity for Tulsa. The prestigious St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example, wrote: "Down in Tulsa, the y have a theory that whatever helps the town helps the citizens. It's a pretty good theory too. It makes nations as well as cities great." The publicity surrounding the trip was so great that three years later, the Tulsans organized a second, even more ambitious excursion. This time they promoted both their young city and their new state of Oklahoma, established the previous year. They traveled through Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago, then eastward to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and New York, ending in Washington, D .C. fifteen states and 2,972 miles in sixteen days. The band and the printing press were back, and a Creek and a Cherokee joined them as swarthy reminders of the city's Indian tradition. They learned a cheer:Come, everybody! Get off the grass! We're from the town of natural gas! From Indian Territory and don't give a rap! Move to Tulsa and get on the map!The boosters captured the imagination of dignitaries and commoners alike. The governor of New York, Charles Evans Hughes, welcomed the group at Manhattan's Union Station, and state and local officials paraded them down Fifth Avenue, past cheering New Yorkers. In the capital, President Theodore Roosevelt gave them a party, and they received an ovation when they visited the House and Senate. Returning to the Chicago Board of Trade, they created such a ruckus that the telegraph wires suspended operation. From New York came a frantic query asking what was the matter. "Nothing, " went the response. "Tulsa is here." When the group returned home, 8,000 cheering supporters greeted them at the Katy Station, Oklahoma's lieutenant governor, chief justice, and speaker of the house among them. A scheduled parade was canceled because the streets were too jammed. Even before the train returned, the Commercial Club had received two sacks of letters requesting information about Tulsa, the new state, and opportunities for investment. Robert T. Daniel, a wealthy land developer in Miami, had read accounts of the 1905 expedition and moved to Tulsa, believing that it was the promised land. He built two of the city's first skyscrapers, the Daniel Building and the Hotel Tulsa. The triumphant excursions begat endless publicity gimmicks. The Commercial Club paid $1,000 for a three-reel film about Tulsa and its oil fields. Local publishers produced booklets on expensive paper that ranged from bombastic praise for the city to vapid agricultural statistics; in 1915 the Chamber of Commerce published a booklet, "Tulsa Spirit, "with stories about economic growth and cultural enrichment. Another book bore the title Tulsa: A City with a Personality. The careful cultivation of Tulsa's image, w here the "clink of one dollar against the other" could be heard in the air, was central to its ultimate success. A name had already blossomed for Tulsathe Magic Cityand by 1908 it had a postcard called "Moonlight over Tulsa, "showing electric lights strung like pearls above Main Street. As new and larger oil fields erupted in Oklahoma, this alluring image would ensure that Tulsa attracted the financiers who bankrolled the oil digs and the roustabouts who worked in the fields as well as the women who ran the homes, raised the children, and worked in the schools, bars, and brothels. But the publicity had one drawback: the influx of capital and manpower could just as easily cease if the town's image was somehow sullied, if Tulsa were known not as a magic city but as a city of destruction and bigotry. Those issues confronted Tulsa before long, but in the meantime it pursued its destiny as the new El Dorado, a place of fabulous wealth and boundless opportunity.On November 22, 1905, two Tulsa wildcatters, Robert Galbreath and Frank Chesley, were drilling for oil on a farm owned by Ida Glenn about twelve miles south of the city. Their bit touched a sandbar, and the well blew into productionand was soon anointed "the biggest small field in the world." The new gusher held such riches that when a curious reporter tried to visit the site a few days later, he was barred by men with shotguns. In March the partners hit an even larger well only three hundred feet from the first. Initially, the wells gushed so profusely that the oil simply collected on the ground, without the benefit of tanks. Waterfowl often mistook these "lakes of oil" for ponds, so caf owners served "roast duck, " a cheap dish frequently on the menu. Fortunately for the natural habitat, Glenn Pool rigs and tanks soon appeared across a field eight miles long. "The whole countryside, " one pioneer oilman recalled, "had a bristling appearance from hundreds of wooden derricks rushing into the sky." By 1907 ninety-five oil companies were working the field, having sunk more than a thousand wells; they produced almost twenty million barrels of oil in that year alone. Glenn Pool enabled Oklahoma to lead the nation in oil production in its first year of statehood. It made a few lucky men instant millionaires, and it flushed millions of dollars into Tulsa. The money, wrote the Oklahoma historian Danney Goble, "was spent on capital with drilling companies, freight companies, and supply companies. It was spent on wages in Tulsa's stores and for Tulsa's homes. It was spent on necessities, on luxuries, on childrenand on gambling, liquor, and women. It made Tulsa rich. It made Tulsa wild. And it made Tulsa big."While Glenn Pool's output peaked in 1911, the following year saw an even bigger eruption, the Cushing field, forty-five miles west of Tulsa. It was the most spectacular pool of its size in the world. Rousing gushers blasted uncontrollably from the earth, and streams of slimy black liquid flowed down creeks and ravines as frantic producers threw up dams to stop the waste. By 1915, the Cushing field was producing 300,000 barrels a daynearly one fifth of all the oil marketed in the United States. Money rolled into the city. In 1914 it had only three banks with more than $1 million in deposits; two years later, all nine banks had deposits exceeding that amount. It made sense for the Oil and Gas Journal, the industry's bible, to move to Tulsa in 1908. The new publisher, Patrick Doyle, lived in Oil City, Pennsylvania, the site of America's first oil field, and the journal had been published in Beaumont, Texas, the home of the great field at Spindletop, which ushered in the modern oil industry. But with the best oil days over in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and with Spindletop dried out by 1911, Tulsa rightly claimed the title of Oil Capital of the World. The arrival of the oil field workers in Tulsa was like a shot of adrenaline in an already caffeinated body. They wore khaki shirts, leather boots, fedoras, and trousers splattered with oil and mud. They were reckless, free-spending, muscular, quick-tempered, violent, hard-drinking, and eager for a gamble. But even in his Sunday attire, an oilman could usually be recognized by the wad of tobacco in his cheek (fire hazards at wells forced him to chew instead of smoke). Danger loomed in the oil fields, w here men were killed when thunderstorms torched tanks and windstorms toppled derricks. Another hazard came from nitroglycerin, which was used to discharge wells by breaking up oil-bearing strata. When a wagon hauling the unstable compound hit a pothole, the resulting explosion would leave a huge crater in the ground and rattle windows for miles. Passersby could only speculate on whether the bits of flesh came from man or horse. But these dangers were eclipsed by the lust for profits, with opportunities rippling throughout the Tulsa economy. Barbershops, restaurants, and grocery stores posted perpetual help wanted signs. Contractors searched for craftsmen in the building trades. The oil producers and investors were always hunting for drillers, tool dressers, geologists, and pipeliners. Teenage boys hauled buckets of hot bathing water to oil workers living in makeshift inns with no plumbing. Bootleggers sold anything they could pour in a bottle. The "shady-ladies" ran around with stockings full of money. Tulsa's growth was staggering. Between 1907 and 1910 its population more than doubled, to 18,182 from 7,298. From 1910 to 1920 the number almost quadrupled, to 72,075. The newcomers stood in line, waiting for others to finish, in cafs, restaurants, and hotel dining rooms. Barbershops stayed open all night, giving numbered cards to customers as they entered. Carpenters, plumbers, painters, bricklayers, and electricians also worked through the night, beneath bright floodlights, on stores, office buildings, and no-frills board- and-batten bungalows. By 1909, there were seven jewelry stores, all near Second and Main streets, two auto dealers, and two dressmaking emporiums, including the Parisian Parlor. Watermelons were still sold from horsedrawn buggies, but the town had forty-eight grocers, thirty- three restaurants, six bakeries, and three wholesale meat markets. Main Street was paved by 1908, and two years later eighty more blocks had received the same treatment. In time, a stately four-story courthouse was built of gray stone and marble imported from Italy. The surveyor who laid out the rest of downtown named the streets cleverly. Those west of Main were named after cities west of the Mississippi River, starting with Boulder, Cheyenne, and Denver. East of Main were cities east of the MississippiBoston, Cincinnati, and Detroit. These names seemed to reflect Tulsa's big-city aspirations. The opening of the Hotel Tulsa on May 12, 1912, symbolized the town's image of glamour and wealth. The absence of a fine hotel had been a serious drawback for a city trying to become a commercial center, but this ten-story marvel filled that role. "It means another milestone in the onward march of Greater Tulsathe biggest single advancement yet, "proclaimed the Tulsa World. Located at Third and Cincinnati, it breathed frontier opulence, with rich chandeliers hanging over large brown leather chairs, brass spittoons at their feet. The Persian rugs, white and gray marble steps, and domed ceiling evoked the new riches, while the oilmen's other pursuits in the hoteldrinking whiskey, playing poker, consorting with prostitutesembodied Tulsa's rowdy past. The lobby was a blend of blue serge pants and grease-stained overalls, winners one day, losers the next. Oil producers, lease brokers, and wildcatters created their own informal stock exchange. To buy or sell a lease, someone would pull out a map, stick a pencil on the spot, and agree to a price. In the hotel's first fifteen years, a billion dollars in oil deals was transacted there; according to several accounts, the oil tycoon Josh Cosden once wrote a personal check for $12 million. The lobby's dominant figure was Harry Sinclair, who occupied a suite of offices on the fifth floor where he played poker, drank whiskey, and, according to legend, put together the Sinclair-White Oil Company one night in the hallway. Other regulars were Robert McFarlin, who made so much money in the Glenn Pool and elsewhere that his company became the world's largest independent oil producer in less than ten years, and J. Paul Getty, who around 1914 wore the first wristwatch seen in Tulsa. The Hotel Tulsa captured the era's fizzy spirit. On one occasion, patrons thought that a national Indian convention in Tulsa would make a fine time to hold a bronco-riding contest in the lobby. Three strands of rope were strung around the great white marble columns to erect a corral, and powdered resin was sprinkled on the tile floor. Then a bare-chested Indian, wearing buckskin pants and a beaded headband with one feather, walked his horse through the lobby into the corral. Crowds of people gathered outside the ropes and along the marble rail of the mezzanine, and bets were placed on whether the Indian could stay mounted on the bucking bronco for eight seconds. The spectators roared as the rider banged his heels against the horse's side; the animal reared back, lunged forward, slipped, and crashed to the floor, spilling the rider to the ground. The Indian got back on his horse and this time held on for the prescribed eight seconds. But right before the gun sounded to end the ride, the oilmen on the mezzanine began pouring corn whiskey on the crowd below, setting off a mad scramble. As one spectator, Choc Phillips, recounted in his memoir:Those caught in the downpour around the corral, and the people lining the railing around the mezzanine floor yelled and laughed as if it was the funniest thing in the world . . .Why allow such a showy attractive place to be shattered and broken by those wild rough people? The answer was money, lots of it. It was that sort of town. Any damage to the property would have been paid for immediately, and usually without a whimper . . . Things of this nature were rather normal conduct in boomtowns.An economic frenzy of a different sort had played out in the region once before. In the great land runs of 1889 and 1893, farmsteads could be obtained in the Oklahoma Territory by dashing forth at the sound of an official pistol and driving stakes into unclaimed ground. (The Oklahoma Sooners refer to those who jumped the gun.) These stampedes made the area a refuge for the poor, dispossessed whites who had foundered in other southern states and were trying once again to scrape out a livelihood. Oil attracted a completely different newcomer to Oklahoma, and to Tulsanot the rugged farm boys from the South but the financial dandies and oil barons from the East, many from the fading petroleum fields of Pennsylvania and Ohio. They brought with them expansive styles, sophistication, and a desire to plant highbrow culture in the red clay of Oklahoma. In 1908 the Tulsa Opera House staged Ben Hur and fancifully recreated the chariot race by putting two horses on adjacent treadmills. The women of Tulsa formed a musical organization named the Hyechka Club, from the Creek word for "music." Supported by the city's businessmen, it brought in the New York Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Company, the Minneapolis Symphony, the Chicago Civic Opera Company, the Victor Herbert Orchestra, Toscanini with the La Scala Orchestra of Milan, and many other performers. When Amelita Galli-Curci, the brilliant Italian soprano, came to town, she performed her operatic repertoire, then brought down the house with an encore of "Home, Sweet Home." As a newspaper man later wrote, " Some of the oil queens clattered down the aisles looking like just- opened pirate chests . . . Gradually, even [they] began to learn the difference been an aria and an aardvark, and people didn't applaud so loudly between the movements by celebrated soloists." As the downtown skyline took shape, the tycoons built mansions whose Italian marble mantelpieces, plush velvet handrails, and silver-plated chandeliers bespoke a Gilded Age of Oil. Their homes were south of downtown, beyond rows of bungalows, on wide boulevards shaded by oaks, redbuds, and dogwoods. Josh Cosden, who opened Tulsa's first refinery on the banks of the Arkansas and was a millionaire at thirty-two, is credited with building the city's first oil mansion in 1914. On 17th Street, it was fronted by six massive columns and featured grand amenities. Visitors could play tennis on an imported English clay court under electric lightsa Tulsa firstor they could swim laps in the indoor pool. One block south was a mansion owned by Carl Dresser, a native of Pennsylvania and the president of a company that supplied most of the world's oil pipeline couplings. At twenty-nine, he built a three-story Italian Renaissance villa, with a stucco faade and terracotta roof tiles. The interior featured high beamed ceilings, tile and hardwood floors, wrought-iron railings, and leaded and stained glass windows. It had five bedrooms, six baths, three sunporches, six fireplaces, and a three-car garage. It also included quarters for five servants and a large wall safe in the butler's pantry for the family silver. The dining room, with its gold leaf ceiling, had a stone mantel with the immortal inscription: Inter secundus res esto moderat (In the future, among favorable things be moderate). While the boosters relished the stories of Tulsa's wealth, man y residents still lived in poverty. The oil business, in which wells gushed one day and ran dry the next, was inherently unstable, and even sustained oil flows were commercially perilous, causing overproduction, lower prices, and reduced profits. These boom-and- bust cycles capsized companies, wiped out fortunes, and prevented many workers from escaping their squalor. In 1921 a Methodist church in Tulsa sponsored a survey of the working-class neighborhood of West Tulsa, on the west bank of the Arkansas River. Three thousand residents lived in bungalows, tents, boxes, o r other threadbare structures. In one house, a family of seven all slept on dirt floors; on another block, twenty-seven people used the same outdoor toilet. Leaking roofs and poor sanitation were common, and the children lacked shoes, clothing, and food. There were 305 cases of contagious diseaseswhooping cough, measles, mumps, chicken pox, diphtheria, and smallpox, all among preschool children. They "must have light and sunshine, as well as sanitary conditions, and in the case of contagious diseases, be isolated, " the report concluded. Vice also flourished. In the red brick hotels along First Street, parallel to the railroad tracks, gamblers set up their rooms, and prostitutes solicited patrons by rapping on the windows. To avoid the police, illegal whiskey was floated on rafts and in boats at night down the Arkansas River to replenish the city's supply. If it failed to arrive, word spread that "the fleet had sunk." Otherwise, " the fleet was in." On Friday nights the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Charles Kerr, toured First Street, prayed with drunken cowboys and roughnecks, and tried to lead them to Jesus. On Saturday nights, when the oilmen had a paycheck in their pocket and time on their hands, murders, fights, and knifings became so frequent that the street was named Bloody First. On Sunday mornings, it was common for residents to wake up and ask, "Who got shot last night?" On one occasion, a boy left his home at dawn to deliver newspapers and found the body of a man in his front yard. The man had apparently been stabbed in a fight, staggered along the street, collapsed in the yard, and bled to death on the lawn. Even in its early boom years, the city's lawlessness was virtually impossible to stop. In 1906 the Tulsa chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union marched on city hall and protested that vice was corrupting the town's youth. The mayor said he was powerless to suppress the traffic in liquor and gambling and, as for prostitutes, "We cannot send them to jail for we have no suitable place to incarcerate women." For years, the police department, like other government agencies in Tulsa, remained poorly financed and staffed. When vice squads tried to shut down the rooming houses where hookers met their clients, the proprietors appeared in court and swore they had thought the couple was married. After all, that was how they signed the registry. The roadhouses outside town, which were popular gambling dens, sat on mounted wheels, so when word came of an impending raid, the houses were simply rolled into the next county. Tulsa debated whether it should be an open or closed town, typically slanting these arguments toward what was best for its commercial interests. Open-town advocates believed the city's anything goes mores attracted free-spending businessmen; their closed- town adversaries considered tough law enforcement essential for Tulsa's long-term stability. These debates flared during campaigns for city office. Political challengers pledged to "clean up Tulsa" and crack down on reputed "vice lords'prominent citizens who profited from illicit businesses and bribed police officers and newspapermen to ignore criminal behavior. When sometimes the political challengers won, the y were then beholden to the same underworld interests as their predecessors, and the crackdowns rarely materialized. Only an epidemic could inspire draconian measures. In 1918, when the Spanish influenza infected one in four Americans and killed forty million people around the world, Tulsans collapsed while walking down the street or sipping coffee in a restaurant. Old storage rooms, churches, and schools were turned into emergency hospitals, but many residentsat one point 3,000still had to fight the virus at home. City officials banned gatherings of all sorts and even advised people not to shake hands with friends. Under these conditions, the authorities raided the First Street hotels, swept up dozens of "undesirables'pimps, gamblers, bootleggers, and prostitutesand quarantined them in two old warehouses. When the epidemic subsided, it was business as usual, and sex, booze, and poker were good for business.Ultimately, nothing would derail the boom yearsTulsans wouldn't allow it. The city was run by a benign plutocracy, which applied enlightened self-interest to bridge the Arkansas River, entice the railroads, sponsor the booster trains, even bail out failing businesses that were central to its commercial mission. In 1910 the Farmers National Bank was close to insolvency, and a run on the bank could have triggered other runs, forced shutdowns, and eviscerated Tulsa's claim as a business center for oil. The town's leading petroleum executives convened an emergency meeting. Fearing the collapse of Farmers National, the oil elite agreed to take it over, rename it Exchange National Bank, and personally guarantee every dollar of every deposit. Unlike other banks, which viewed the oil business as a crapshoot and were reluctant to finance wildcat wells, this institution catered to oilmen, and it flourished as the demand for energy soared from the growing auto industry and, later, World War I. Eleven years and several consolidations later, Exchange National operated out of a beautiful new twelve-story building at Third and Boston streets and had deposits of nearly $28 million. As Harry Sinclair later said, "All of us thought that the future of Tulsa and the future of oil cried out for an oil bank, and it became what we hoped it would, the biggest and best known oil bank in the country." As the century's second decade rolled on, Tulsa's streets were paved as part of a large civic plan. A municipal building, a convention hall, a hospital, and a high school were all constructed. Office buildings that bore the names of their oil patronsCosden, Kennedy, Sinclairwere also built. Their thick carpeting, columns lined with brass and gold, polished marble floors, and long shining counters all looked, in the words of one New York writer, like "a corner torn away from Wall Street." Streets were named Harvard and Yale. Clothing stores now sold black-embroidered Chamoisette gloves for women, taffeta dresses for children, and Manhattan silk shirts for men. Cadillacs crowded the streets, and car shows were annual events, featuringaccording to one advertisement'hundreds of beautiful women, each superbly gowned at the steering wheel of every car." Tulsans still rode horses, but many of the riders had discarded their blue jeans, vests, and dangling spurs for a more sophisticated British look: tweed jackets, helmets, fine leather boots, and an English saddle that lacked the trademark embossed pommel of its western counterpart. Social climbing was seen even in religious circles. Many poor Tulsans from the rural South had Pentecostal backgrounds, which emphasized a belief in divine healing, speaking in tongues, and boisterous expressions of faith such as clapping and shouting. But as the Pentecostals made money in the oil fields and moved up the social ladder, the y sought admission to the more restrained, prestigious Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches as one more vindication of their enriched earthly status.Overlooked in all the excitement was a growing black community north of the railroad tracks. Ambitious but restive, proud but relegated to the fringe of society, it could have existed in another state or even country. Whites knew that blacks were in their midstthe "coloreds" or "Negroes" worked as their cooks, chauffeurs, and servantsbut they were not among the pioneers and visionaries who built the miracle that was Tulsa. As Tate Brady, who moved to Tulsa in 1890 and later opened one of its largest hotels, wrote about these groundbreaking days: "Indian and white man, Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant, we worked side by side, shoulder to shoulder and under these conditions the "Tulsa Spirit" was born and has lived and God grant that it never dies . . .Cursed be he, or they, who on any pretext try to divide our citizenship and destroy this spirit." When racial violence finally did split the city, when long- ignored wounds were opened and the "Tulsa Spirit" lay in ruins, thousands would be cursed.Copyright 2002 by James S. Hirsch. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Excerpted from Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy by James S. Hirsch All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
I. Beginnings
1. The Self-Made Oil Capitalp. 11
2. The Promised Landp. 28
3. Race, Rape, and the Ropep. 51
4. Mob Justicep. 61
II. The Riot
5. When Hell Broke Loosep. 77
6. The Invasionp. 99
III. The Legacy
7. Blame and Betrayalp. 117
8. Rising from the Ashesp. 142
9. The Rise of the Secret Orderp. 162
10. A Culture of Silencep. 168
11. "Money, Negro"p. 186
12. It Happened in Tulsap. 199
13. Bridging the Racial Dividep. 206
14. A Commemorationp. 216
15. The Last Man Vindicatedp. 229
16. The Disappeared of Tulsap. 237
17. The Age of Reparationsp. 256
18. The Last Pioneerp. 275
19. The Survivorsp. 288
20. Riot and Remembrancep. 303
Sourcesp. 333
Acknowledgmentsp. 340
Indexp. 344