Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riots, one of the threads in Soulographie. My wife came across this article – a good, quick overview.
Below, the next-to-last scene of Diamond Dick, the first play in the Soulographie Tulsa series (verbatim testimony and the Ellsworth account included).
One day later, after spending the night at the home of a white projectionist who works at the Dreamland and who secures his release from Convention Hall, Bill Williams is reunited with his mother, father and sister.
(The white deputies wash their ashes away. A black man covered in ash appears.)
Chimney stacks left standing.
June 1, the race riot has nearly run its course. Scattered bands of white rioters, some of whom had been awake for more than twenty-four hours straight, continue to loot and burn, but most have already gone home.
GRAY NEGRO (Receiving emergency rations. To the potatoes.)
Thank you, potatoes. Hello. Let’s go.
June 1, order restored. The Tulsa race riot is over.
With martial law in force, forbidding the indiscriminate use of the streets to vehicles and pedestrians until 8 o’clock Thursday morning; with 5,000 negro refugees confined in the buildings at the county fair grounds east of the city; with ‘Little Africa’ in ashes, and with Adjutant General Charles F. Barrett in command of seven companies of National Guardsmen, Tulsa is comparatively quiet after a night and part of a day of race rioting.
North Greenwood Avenue, the principal thoroughfare of the colored district, resembles the ruins of a town hit simultaneously by fire and tornado.
(The Gray Negro falls dead.)
Most of the blacks who were killed met death in the early morning fighting in the Negro section near the Frisco tracks.
(Eufala gathers the scattered potatoes, puts them in the pot of boiling water.)
The bodies are apparently not handled in a systematic manner; a number are removed in motor trucks operated by citizens. Kirkpatrick says he does not know where they are taken – whether they are placed at some specific point for later attention, if they are dumped into a large hole, or thrown into the Arkansas River.
No coffins are used; funerals are banned. The bodies are cast into holes and covered with clay.
I talked to the sexton an Oaklawn Cemetery. He said truckloads were brought in and they were buried in the pauper field in the southwest corner… I saw two truckloads of bodies. They were Negroes with their legs and arms sticking out through the slats. On the very top was a little boy just about my age, he looked liked he had been scared to death.
If a bell were rung every thirty seconds for the dead in memorial, you don’t know when it would start of stop, or how many times. They are buried in freight boxes, they are buried scattered around.
Highways cut the skeleton of the town in the town apart. It cannot zombie itself together.
(It rains copper leaf, which burns green.)
Despite the efforts of the American Red Cross, thousands of black Tulsans are forced to spend the winter of 1921-22 living in tents.
We are issued – green identity cards.
The old woman is a wrinkled as an empty sleeve; she stands in the ash of the breakfast nook. It’s Thursday; she wants Sunday. “Paula, Seth, Howard? Pawn? Pawn? Pawnbroker?” She meant to be calling for her family but lands in the name of the pawnbroker; the pawnbroker is dead and her family is dead and the broken house was a theater desacralized because the town was dead; it’s Thursday because the calendar is broke and in that theater they were wrestling at night on the backs of live chickens, breaking them.
The refugees are lined up and given bread; the men are separated from the women and children.
Hundreds of blacks are seen leaving Tulsa along the roads to other towns: Broken Arrow and Sapulpa.
ALL TRAINS OUT OF CITY JAMMED WITH REFUGEES; HUNDREDS OF NEGROES BUY ONE WAY TICKETS OUT OF TULSA, AGENTS SAY.
No white Tulsan is ever sent to prison for the murders and burnings of May 31, and June 1, 1921. One mile square, cold cinder.
(The ghosts of bells.)