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How the Tulsa race massacre separated the Black family

Posted at 6:26 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 23:43:27-04

TULSA, Okla.  — On the fifth floor of the University of Tulsa’s McFarlin Library sits an archive room managed by historian Marc Carlson.

“It’s really the history of the city," Carlson said. "It’s part of the history of the city.”

Carlson has been researching the Tulsa race massacre since 1989.

“I wasn’t trying to educate Greenwood about what happened," he said. "I figured they already knew. But there were a lot of white people in Tulsa who didn’t know.”

Carlson said even those tasked with documenting history tried to erase it.

“Someone had gone through and cut out all of the magazines and journals here at McFarlin," he said. “My supposition is they tried to remove it to cover up locally what had happened.”

But thanks to what's known as interlibrary loan, Carlson was able to get copies of those records, and he knows the smallest details.

“Dick Rowland’s real name was not in fact, Dick Rowland," he said. "I believe it was John Jones.”

To the words that started it all.

“Nab negro for assaulting [a] woman. Which in the coding of 1921, really only had one major meaning.”

When the rioting started, Carlson said the separation of black families began once the National Guard arrived.

“That translated into disarming them and taking them down to various holding locations," he said.

Residents were taken from their homes.

“They essentially marched the people from the Convention Hall, up Main Street to 2nd and Main, turned them left and marched to Cincinnati, all with their hands in the air as if they were a conquered people,"Carlson said.

And they were stripped of their identity, both those living in holding areas.

“They kept them there until somebody could come by and verify that, 'oh no, this one is okay,'" he said.

And those left dead in the street.

“They didn’t bother actually checking to find if anybody knew who these people were," Carlson said.

After days of being separated, "a huge number of people left and never came back.”

In the aftermath of fires and destruction, Carlson said the biggest loss was Black families who lost touch with each other, never to be reunited again.

“This is one of the worst things to ever happen in Tulsa, and we need to be aware of it," he said.

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