The Tulsa Race Riot was a large-scale racially motivated conflict on May
31 and June 1, 1921, in which caucasians attacked the black community of
Tulsa, Oklahoma. It resulted in the Greenwood District, also known as 'the
Black Wall Street' and the wealthiest African-American community in the
United States, being burned to the ground. During the 16 hours of the
assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries,
and more than 6,000 Greenwood residents were arrested and detained at
three local facilities. An estimated 10,000 blacks were left homeless,
and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire.
The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital
Statistics was 39, but other estimates of black fatalities have been up to
Numerous accounts described airplanes carrying white assailants firing
rifles and dropping firebombs on buildings, homes, and fleeing families.
The planes, six biplane two-seater trainers left over from World War I,
were dispatched from the nearby Curtiss-Southwest Field (now defunct)
outside of Tulsa. White law enforcement officials later claimed the
planes were to provide reconnaissance and protect whites against what they
described as a "Negro uprising." But, eyewitness accounts and
testimony from the survivors confirmed that on the morning of June 1, the
planes dropped incendiary bombs and fired rifles at black residents on the
Several groups of blacks attempted to organize a defense, but they were
overwhelmed by the number of armed whites. Many blacks surrendered. Others
returned fire, and ultimately lost their lives. As the fires spread
northward through Greenwood, countless black families continued to flee.
Many were estimated to have died when trapped by the flames.