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Curriculum Resources - Meet the Survivors
These accounts of the 1921 Race Massacre are told through the eyes of the survivors. Their stories are chilling and horrifying. This is not an exhaustive list of the Survivors.
If you are a descendant of one of the Survivors (or know of a story that can be added) and they shared their story with you, we at the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation would love to hear it. Please click here to contact our office and share your story.
Resource: The Greenwood Cultural Center
JAMES L. STEWARD
Born: July 12, 1917
"At the time of the Tulsa riot, my parents, Finclair and Lillian Clark Steward, lived at 444 E. Marshall Place in a home that they owned. Of course, I was just four years old and don't remember much about the riot. But my parents told me about our terrible experience during that riot. the mobsters set our house on fire. Dad said he tried every door in the house to get us out, but at every door there was a fire! So he knocked out a window pane and put my mother through it. Then he put me through the window into my mother's arms. We joined the crowd of running, scared black people. My parents told me they saw airplanes flying low overhead and dropping some kind devices that fire to everything they touched. thank God, my family survived that riot. My mother always liked to keep notes about things, people, and events. I am giving to the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 a copy of my mother's own handwritten account of the riot."
Born: June 13, 1916
"I was only five years old, too young to know the significance of a riot, but I do remember tht my mother was so frightened that I knew that something was terribly wrong. The militia took dad and my uncles to detention. while the militia was busy taking the men in the family away, my mother slipped away with my sister Roxanna and me and ran to hide ina chicken house. With us, was an old man on a walking stick. While we were running, an airplane flew over real low and someone in the plane shot and killed that old man! My mother often talked about the riot, buy my dad NEVER talked about it!"
JOHN MELVIN ALEXANDER
Born: December 22, 1919
"All the talk about reparations has helped me clarify my views on that subject. When I am asked whether I favor reparations for riot victims, I say 'yes, I certainly do!' If Japanese Americans got reparations for their suffering during World War II, we black Tulsa Race Riot survivors deserve it for our suffering in 1921. Some of us survivors fought for this country, the USA, in World War II. I was a steward on war ships. I went to Korea near the ending of the war in that country in the east. Yes, I did my duty for this country. I suffered during that Tulsa riot. I feel tht I certainly do deserve reparations!"
JOHNNIE L. GRAYSON BROWN
Born: July 5, 1914
"I was seven years old when the riot broke out. Some of the riot survivors my age remember a lot abut the riot. But I just can't remember much about it. I guess it was so horrible, that my mind has just blotted it out. I just can't remember much about that awful riot."
JUANITA SMITH BOOKER
Born: January 15, 1914
"Everything about that riot was terrible. I remember that we were all riding on a flatbed truck trying to escape the approaching mobs. the truck was going so fast. The driver made a sharp turn on a corner and hit the curb. A lady fell off the truck and was killed! With all this talk in recent years about the Tulsa riot, I have been thinking a lot about my childhood days, both before the riot, during the riot, and after the riot. I remember a little playmate named Juanita Scott, survivor now living in Chicago. At the time of the riot, we lived near the Samuel Jackson Funeral Home on Archer Street. The Scott family lived nearby. Oh, those innocent days of childhood before the riot. Nothing was ever the same after the riot!"
JULIUS WARREN SCOTT
Born: September 23, 1921
"I don't remember anything about the Tulsa riot, but I remember my mother telling me about it. Mother remembers running down the street, six months pregnant with me, dodging bullets that were dropping all around her. She said that it was a miracle that she escaped alive and that I was later allowed to come into this world. She always thanked God for our safety."
KATIE MAE JOHNSON LIVINSTON
Born: May 6, 1921
"At the time of the tulsa riot, my mother, Louvenia Payne, my older sister, and I, lived with her parents Frank and Katie Payne who had moved to Tulsa from Clarksville, Oklahoma tyring to get in onthe good life that was supposed to exist in oil-rich Tulsa. Mother said that the riot was the worst experience she ever lived through. She said she was just scared to death. She was running in terror with my sister, who was born when mother was just 13, at her side and me, a three-week-old baby inher arms. She said there was fire and shooting everywhere! People were just running wildly trying to get out of the inferno on Greenwood that day. Some kind of way, my mother made it safely out of the inferno on Greenwood. She later went to Clarksville and stayed with relatives there."
KENNY I. BOOKER
Born: March 21, 1913
"At the time of the tulsa Race riot of 1921, my parents and the five of us children lived at 320 N. Hartford Avenue. We had a lovely home, filled with beautiful furniture, including a grand piano. All our clothes and personal belongings - just everything - were burned up during the riot. Early on the morning of June 1, 1921, my parents were awakened by the sounds of shooting and the smell of fire, and the noise of fleeing blacks running past our house. My dad awakened us children and sent us to the attic with our mother. We could hear what was going on below. We heard the white men ordering dad to come with them; he was being taken to detention. We could hear dad pleading with the mobsters. He was begging them 'please don't set my house on fire.' But, of course, that is exactly what they did just before they left with dad. though dad went outside the house with the mobsters, he slipped away from them when they got preoccupied splashing gasoline or kerosene on the outside of the house to spee dup the burning. He rushed to the attic and resuced us. We slipped into the crowd of fleeing black refugees. Thank God we did not burn up in that attic!"
MILDRED EVITT MILBURN
Born: January 16, 1921
"I don't remember anything about the riot. My memory afterward is all bad. It broke up my family. Mama never talked about it. What I know, I heard from Grandma Liza. My dad, Isaac Evitt, had a business, a club on Cameron. It was burned down. Mama and grandma were Creek Indian Freedmen and had land allotments. My dad forged their signatures, slipped and sold the land to white folks, and opened a new business that failed. He abandoned us and went to California. I never talked about it until my nephew, Don Ross, brought it up in the Oklahoma Legislature. I have been bitter for years. The riot didn't kill my dad, but I believe it took him away from us - and we lost the land that was rightfully our inheritance."
OTIS GRANDVILLE CLARK
Born: February 13, 1903
"I got caught right in the middle of that riot! Some white mobsters were holed up in the upper floor of the Ray Rhee Flour Mill on East Archer and they were just gunning down black people, just picking them off like they were swatting flies. Well, I had a friend who worked for Jackson's Funeral Home and he was trying to get to that new ambulance so he could drive it to safety. I went with him. He had the keys in his hand, ready for the takeoff. but one of the mobsters inthe rhee building zoomed in on him and shot him in the hand. The keys flew to the ground and blood shot out of his hand and some of it sprayed on me. We both immediately abandoned plans to save that ambulance! We ran for our lives. We never saw my stepfather again, nor our little pet bulldog, Bob. I just know they perished in that riot. My stepfather was a strong family man. I know he did not desert us. I just whish I knew hwere he was buried. "
Click here to listen to a live interview with Mr. Clark.
ROANNA HENRY MCCLURE
Born: February 21, 1914
"My father, William Henry, died before I was born. At the time of th eriot, my mother, Lula Row Henry, and I were living with my grandmother, Katie Row, in a house on Pine Place. On the day of the riot, we left home in fear for our lives. We first sought shelter at Dr. Key's house. Dr. Key was a prominent, colored physician who lived in a big two-story house on Virgin Street. Then we moved again. I was a sickly child. I had rheumatism and couldn't walk very well. Grandma carried me in her arms, but she was walking too slowly for me. I said, 'Put me down. I'll walk myself!' I remember we all got picked up and taken downtown. then, later w were taken to a place on 15th Street. The officials in charge put a bunch of mattresses on the floor for the ill colored children."
RUTH DEAN NASH
Born: September 9, 1915
"I was so traumatized by that riot, I don't remember much about anything, except for my terror. I'll never forget that. Whenthings began to really get ugly on June 1, 1921, an aunt of mine took us to Pine Street where we were to meet up with a cousin who would drive us to Muskogee. Well, when we drove down Pine Street to Peoria Avenue, gun-bearing guards met us. I remember one came right up to the car and he had a long bayonet in his hand. I was so scared of that guard and that bayonet that I jumped out of the car and started running back toward Pine Street. My mother jumped out of the car and ran after me. Meanwhile, with all this commotion going on, my cousin couldn't wait for mother an me. He just slipped away and drove the rest of the family to Muskogee. My mother and i were picked up with a bunch of other black folks and taken to the YWCA in downtown Tulsa."
SIMON R. RICHARDSON
Born: February 12, 1921
"On June 1, 1921, when things got so bad, my grandparents sent me on with the neighbors, the Butlers. the Butlers hooked up two mules to a wagon and we headed for Mohawk Park to get away from the fast-approaching mobsters. My grandmother and my cousin were picked up by the guards and taken to the Red Cross. Men and boys were taken by the militia to the Convention Center. In all this commotion, my grandmother didn't know where I was. I was missing from her for two days and she was so worried. She was just sick with grief. She thought I had been killed. A few days after the riot, blacks were released from detention and most wer reunited with their families. But some people were not reunited. Some were never heard of again, like the Butlers who took me to safety in their wagon pulled by the two mules. My grandparents tried and tried to locate them after the riot, and when I grew older, I tried to locate them, but they were never heard of again. I wonder if they were buried in some secret place."