Tulsa Race Riot
May 31, 1921
A white mob attacks residents and businesses of the African-American community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. With a death toll estimated at 300, it is one of the worst incidents of racial violence in the U.S.
The riots started when a black man was arrested for raping a young white female elevator operator. A white mob formed at the jail in an effort to lynch him. When blacks gathered to protect him, gunfire erupted and 10 whites and two black people were killed. Over the next several days, thousands of white people rampaged through the black community, killing men and women, burning and looting stores and homes, and dropping fire bombs from airplanes. Thirty-five blocks of the district, at the time the wealthiest black community in the U.S., were destroyed with property damage estimated over $2 million ($31 million in 2018 dollars). According to conflicting reports, the initial arrest was prompted after a black man tripped in an elevator, and a white store clerk who saw the incident misinterpreted it as an “assault” of the female elevator operator. The elevator operator refused to press charges.