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How the Tulsa Race Massacre was reported at the time

1-2 minute read

By Niall Cullen

31 May 2021
Tulsa massacre - newspaper reports

The Tulsa massacre of 1921 remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. We scoured our newspaper archives to discover contemporary coverage of the tragedy.

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, Black residents of the Greenwood district (a.k.a. The Black Wall Street) in Tulsa, Oklahoma were attacked by White locals, spurred on by city officials. The ensuing riots caused millions of dollars in damage to properties and businesses, left thousands of Black citizens homeless, and were largely written out of history until recently. It’s estimated that up to 300 people lost their lives.

At the time, the Tulsa Massacre made headline news around the world.

Findmypast’s exclusive newspaper collection reveals how the British press portrayed the shocking events.

Tulsa Massacre - newspaper reports at the time

Sheffield Daily Telegraph, June 2, 1921. Read the full article.

Early reports pieced together how the riots started with sketchy details on casualties.

Tulsa race massacre - death toll in newspapers

Sheffield Daily Telegraph, June 3, 1921. Read the full article.

Although Black fatalities outnumbered White, it seems the latter made the headlines.

Tulsa race massacre - 1921 newspapers

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, June 2, 1921. Read the full article.

The above snippet vividly describes how the White mob waged war from the ground and the air.

Who started the Tulsa race massacre?

Shields Daily News, June 4, 1921. Read the full article.

Who was to blame for the Tulsa Massacre? The US press formed their opinions in the days that followed.

Contemporary reports of Tulsa massacre

Daily Herald, June 11, 1921. Read the full article.

As the dust settled, some commentators realized this was a problem that stretched well beyond Tulsa.

The story behind the Tulsa Race Massacre

Hull Daily Mail, June 30, 1921. Read the full article.

By the end of June 1921, more details had to come light. Did a simple misunderstanding spark one of America’s worst racially-motivated attacks?

In 2001, the Tulsa Race Massacre Commission published a report stating that city officials had conspired with the White mob against Black residents. A program of reparations was introduced for survivors and their families. The Tulsa Massacre was only added to Oklahoma's school curriculum in 2020.

Historical newspapers can provide a different perspective on past events. They help you understand history as it happened rather than how it was retold over the years. The Tulsa Race Massacre is a prime example of how we should learn from the mistakes of the past as we strive to create a better future together.

Cover photo: George Lane/Flickr.