2014 Oklahoma Statutes
Title 74. State Government
§74-8000.1. Tulsa Race Riot – Legislative findings and intent.

74 OK Stat § 74-8000.1 (2014) What's This?

The Oklahoma Legislature hereby finds, pursuant to the final report of The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission regarding the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot of May 31-June 1, 1921, and the riot=s place in the history of race relations in Oklahoma:

1. The root causes of the Tulsa Race Riot reside deep in the history of race relations in Oklahoma and Tulsa which included the enactment of Jim Crow laws, acts of racial violence (not the least of which was the 23 lynchings of African-Americans versus only one white from 1911) against African-Americans in Oklahoma, and other actions that had the effect of “putting African-Americans in Oklahoma in their place” and to prove to African-Americans that the forces supportive of segregation possessed the power to “push down, push out, and push under” African-Americans in Oklahoma;

2. Official reports and accounts of the time that viewed the Tulsa Race Riot as a “Negro uprising” were incorrect. Given the history of racial violence against African-Americans in Oklahoma, including numerous lynchings by white mobs, and the breakdown of the rule of law in Tulsa on May 31-June 1, 1921, it is understandable that African-Americans believe they needed to assist Tulsa police in protecting Dick Rowland, an African-American accused of attempting to rape a white woman, against an assembled white mob. The documentation assembled by The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission provides strong evidence that some local municipal and county officials failed to take actions to calm or contain the situation once violence erupted and, in some cases, became participants in the subsequent violence which took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, and even deputized and armed many whites who were part of a mob that killed, looted, and burned down the Greenwood area;

3. The staggering cost of the Tulsa Race Riot included the deaths of an estimated 100 to 300 persons, the vast majority of whom were African-Americans, the destruction of 1,256 homes, virtually every school, church and business, and a library and hospital in the Greenwood area, and the loss of personal property caused by rampant looting by white rioters. The Tulsa Race Riot Commission estimates that the property costs in the Greenwood district was approximately $2 million in 1921 dollars or $16,752,600 in 1999 dollars. Nevertheless, there were no convictions for any of the violent acts against African-Americans or any insurance payments to African-American property owners who lost their homes or personal property as a result of the Tulsa Race Riot. Moreover, local officials attempted to block the rebuilding of the Greenwood community by amending the Tulsa building code to require the use of fire-proof material in rebuilding the area thereby making the costs prohibitively expensive;

4. Perhaps the most repugnant fact regarding the history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot is that it was virtually forgotten, with the notable exception of those who witnessed it on both sides, for seventy-five (75) years. This "conspiracy of silence" served the dominant interests of the state during that period which found the riot a “public relations nightmare” that was “best to be forgotten, something to be swept well beneath history=s carpet” for a community which attempted to attract new businesses and settlers;

5. The work of many individual Oklahomans and now of The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission has forever ended the “conspiracy of silence” surrounding the events in Tulsa of May 31-June 1, 1921, and their aftermath. The Commission has subsequently turned the responsibility for how the State of Oklahoma will respond to the historical record to the 48th Oklahoma Legislature; and

6. The 48th Oklahoma Legislature in enacting the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act of 2001 concurs with the conclusion of The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Commission that the reason for responding in the manner provided by this act is not primarily based on the present strictly legal culpability of the State of Oklahoma or its citizens. Instead, this response recognizes that there were moral responsibilities at the time of the riot which were ignored and has been ignored ever since rather than confront the realities of an Oklahoma history of race relations that allowed one race to “put down” another race. Therefore, it is the intention of the Oklahoma Legislature in enacting the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act of 2001 to freely acknowledge its moral responsibility on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and its citizens that no race of citizens in Oklahoma has the right or power to subordinate another race today or ever again.

Added by Laws 2001, c. 315, § 2.

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