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What happened at Tulsa_ Oklahoma and Rosewood_ Florida

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Race Riots and Injustice Press Conferences
Introduction
We’ve all seen press conferences on TV following big events. There before a crowd of riled-
up, shouting, practically foaming-at-the-mouth journalists stands a lawyer, publicist,
spokesman or other official looking person, trying to make sense of the din and respond to the
questions posed by Television reporters, Newspaper journalists, bloggers, and so on.

The 1920’s was a time of social change, new fashions, music, job opportunities, consumerism,
and a wealth of other exciting change, however it also had a dark side. Growing under the
surface of all this change was a sense of mistrust and hatred among many Americans of
diverse backgrounds. Immigrants clashed with native-born, blue collar with white collar,
traditionalists with modernists, scientists with religious fundamentalists, government with
organized crime, and so on. Probably none of these clashes were so bloody, however, as the
conflicts over race, nationality, religion, etc. The early 1920s saw a number of horrific,
bloody race riots crop up across the nation.

Read about the following examples of racial tension erupting into violence, and in your group,
create a simulated press conference for the event. Roles will include 1 spokesman (you can
be a lawyer, police commissioner, governor, etc.) and a slew of energetic journalists. You
will, in your group, research the event using the reading provided, your textbooks, and the
internet, and you will create a series of questions which get to the heart of the matter and
expose the important details of the event.

Press-Conferences will be presented in class on Friday.

Grading:
Questions and Answers (20 points)
You must write at least 10 questions with in-depth informative answers.
These will be typed and handed in prior to the press-conference.

Research (15 points)
Your questions and answers must reflect thorough research, i.e. that you have read
about and understood the event and collected more than one source on the topic. You
must use AT LEAST ONE additional source should be brought in for use tomorrow in
class.

Press Conference (10 points)
All group members are vocal and participate (5 points)
The group acts like a true press conference, with eager journalists, a nervous
spokesperson, flustered answers, probing questions, etc. (5 points)

Group Cohesion (5 points)
Your groups must work together to create this press conference, this may require a
group leader or leaders, a recorder, a task-master, etc. Please STAY ON TASK during
class time!
Racial Tensions in the 1920’s
Americans clashed over race in the 1920’s. African Americans took part in the Great
Migration to th North in the early 1900’s for two main reasons. They wanted to take
advantage of greater job opportunities in the North, and they wanted to escape the
increasing violence against African Americans in the South. Many of them, however, found
both racial prejudice and violence in the North.

Violence against African Americans
During the summer of 1919, mob violence between white and black Americans erupted in
about 25 cities. That summer became known as the ―red Summer‖ for all the blood that was
spilled. Omaha, Tulsa, and Washington D.C., all suffered periods of racial turmoil. The worst
of these race riots, however, occurred in Chicago.

The African American population of Chicago had doubled since 1910. This increase led to
overcrowded neighborhoods and heightened tensions between blacks and whites. An incident
at a beach on Lake Michigan touched off the violence. On one especially hot July day, stone-
throwing had erupted between whites and blacks on a beach typically used only by whites.
Meanwhile a 17-year-old black boy, swimming just offshore with his friends, accidentally
floated into the ―whites only‖ section. A white man who had been throwing rocks at the
swimmers for some time, struck the boy, and he drowned. Furious blacks accused the whites
of killing him, and more fights broke out. The riot spread through the city. For several days,
chaos reigned in parts of Chicago. By the end, some 23 African Americans and 15 whites were
dead, another 537 people were4 wounded and the destruction caused by rioting had left
hundreds homeless.

Some whites also directed racial violence against specific individuals. During the 1920s, the
lynchings of the Jim Crow era continued. Many of these new crimes were the work of an old
enemy of racial harmony, the Ku Klux Klan.

Revival of the Klan
During Reconstruction, President Grant’s campaign against the Ku Klux Klan had largely
eliminated it. However in 1915, a formor Methodist circuit preacher from Atlanta, Colonial
William J. Simmons, revived the organization. The Klan used modern fundraising and
publicity methods to increase its influence and size. By 1922, Klan membership had grown to
about 100,000. Two years later, it had ballooned to 4 million. The new Klan was no longer
just a southern organization. In fact, the state with the greatest number of Klansmen was
Indiana. The Klan’s focus shifted, too. The organization vowed to defend their own white-
Protestant culture against any group (not just blacks) that seemed to them un-American.

During the early 1920’s, Klan members carried out many crimes against African Americans,
Catholics, Jews, immigrants, and others. They rode by night, beating, whipping, even killing
their victims, terrorizing blacks and whites alike. They in 1925, the head of the Klan in
Indiana was sentenced to life imprisonment for assaulting a girl who later poisoned herself.
The nation was finally shocked into action, and police began to set up enforcement. By 1927,
Klan activity had diminished once again.
What happened at Tulsa, Oklahoma and Rosewood, Florida?
If hundreds of Americans were taken out and shot, burned alive, or tied to cars and dragged
to death by a foreign army or bands of terrorists, it would certainly make front-page news
and probably would wind up in History books to come. If six Americans were chased from
their homes and murdered, and the homes of hundreds of others torched by an invading army,
that would also have been worth writing about in the history books.

But when Americans did these things to other Americans, it didn’t merit much attention
because the victims were black Americans in what was then a very different America.

Tulsa and Rosewood Race Riots
These two massacres of large groups of innocent American citizens – or ―race riots‖, as they
were called—took place in Tulsa, OK, and Rosewood, FL. But they were largely lost to history
books for most of the last century.

In the early 1920’s, Tulsa, OK was a boisterous postwar boom town, getting rich quick on
recently discovered oil in the region. It was a place where postwar Ku Klux Klan recruiters
didn’t have much trouble finding support for their cause. The isolationist mood or ―America
First‖ movement also called ―Nativism‖, was also flourishing. In the popular mood of the
country, America was white and Christian, and it intended to stay that way. In 1921, when a
black shoe shiner was arrested for assaulting a 19-year-old white girl in an elevator, the
publisher of the local paper—eager to win a local circulation war—published a front-page
headline screaming, ―To Lunch Negro Tonight!‖

It was a familiar story in the Deep South of that era—a black man accused of sexually
assaulting a white woman. Soon after the paper hit the streets on June 21, 1921, whites
began to gather outside the courthouse where the accused man, Dick Rowland, was being
held. (Rowland was eventually released when the woman did not press charges.) Blacks from
the Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, some of them recently discharged war veterans, also
began to descend on the courthouse to protect Rowland from being lynched. Shots were fired
and soon the wholesale destruction of an entire community began in hellish force. A mob of
more than 10,000 whites, fully backed by the white police force, went wild. It was called a
riot but in modern terminology, might also be described as ―ethnic cleansing.‖ The white
folks of the area seemed, in their rage over the accusations, to want to wipe the town clean
of its black residents.

As historian Tim Madigan put it in his book on Tulsa, The Burning, ―It soon became evident
that whites would settle for nothing less than scorched earth. They would not be satisfied to
kill negroes, or to arrest them. They would also try to destroy every vestige of black
prosperity.‖

Soon the white women were looting black homes, filling shopping bags. White men carrying
gasoline set fire to the Greenwood neighborhood. When it was over, there were many dead
blacks, some of whom were placed into mass graves, and their neighborhood was in cinders
and ashes, with more than 1,200 homes burned. Insurance companies later refused to pay
fire claims, invoking a riot exemption. To add to the crime, the story disappeared from local
history for years. Even local newspaper files were eventually cleaned out to remove evidence
of the incident.

For decades, the riots and killings were hushed up, kept alive only by oral traditions of a few
survivors. Only after nearly eighty years of sildnece did Tulsa and the Oklahoma legislature
come to grips with the past. Historians looking into the city’s deadly riot believe that close
to 300 people died during the violence. In 2000, Tulsa Race Riot Commission, a panel
investigating the incident, recommended reparations be paid to the survivors of what is still
considered the nation’s bloodiest race riot.

Tulsa was the worst but it was far from unique. Starting in 1919, there were violent attacks
on blacks in a number of cities, not limited to the Deep South, such as East St. Louis, Chicago,
and Washington D.C. These mass incidents, coupled with the wave of lynchings that spread
through the South, continued for years. And usually, as with the Tulsa incident, they escaped
the notice of most historians. That was the case with another notorious attack on blacks in
Rosewood, Florida in 1923. A small mill town on the Gulf Coast, Rosewood had approximately
120 residents, mostly black. They attended church and worked at the local mills. For the
most part, there was a sense of peaceful coexistence with whites in the neighboring town of
Sumner. But another widely publicized charge of a black man assaulting a white woman again
set off the tinderbox. On January 2, 1923, after word of the supposed incident got out, white
men from Sumner went on a rampage. During a week of shootings and house burnings, black
families fled into the woods or to the protection of a few white families who offered shelter.
During the Rosewood massacre, at least six blacks were killed; several of them had been
lynched and mutilated. Two whites also died in the fighting. The entire small community of
Rosewood was practically wiped out. And as in Tulsa, the history was soon erased from local
memory in a conspiracy of silence, shame and fear.

In 1982, a report in the St. Petersburg Times related the details of the incident, and the
Florida state legislature was pressed to compensate the victims. In 1994, nine living victims
received $150,000 in reparations.



You can access this source at:
http://books.google.com/books?id=r3n0n4HblGoC&pg=PA323&lpg=PA323&dq=1920's+Tulsa+Race+Riots&source=web&ots=Q5Gu6o
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