Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

The New York Times has published an interactive reconstruction of the predominantly African American neighborhood of Greenwood and mapped the brutal violence of the armed White crowd that destroyed it during the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

This is a powerful use of Digital Humanities techniques to reconstruct a community that was destroyed by racial violence. The article accompanying the model has a full discussion of the methodologies utilized in creating this multilayered reconstruction of the thriving African American neighborhood of Greenwood before and during the Tulsa Race Massacre.

On 31 May 1921, racial tensions in Tulsa led to a riot in the downtown area. An organized crowd of White militants attacked African Americans who were downtown and then marched to Greenwood—shooting Black residents, looting belongings, and burning buildings in a massacre that lasted two days.

The New York Times describes the horrifying violence against African Americans and the destruction of their neighborhood: “The numbers presented a staggering portrait of loss: 35 blocks burned to the ground; as many as 300 dead; hundreds injured; 8,000 to 10,000 left homeless; more than 1,470 homes burned or looted; and eventually, 6,000 detained in internment camps.”

The interactive model provides detailed digital mapping and modeling to reconstruct the businesses and residences along Greenwood Avenue and the lives of Black entrepreneurs, workers, and residents of the neighborhood. The model incorporates photos, textual evidence, and census data to provide a rich description of some of the Black victims and survivors of the massacre.

Historians of African American studies, violence studies, crowd studies, urban history, and Digital Humanities will be interested in this model. University professors and high school teachers who offer courses on United States History, History of Race and Racism, Civil Conflict, Political Violence, Genocides, Massacres, Digital Humanities, and other subjects may consider using this model with their students.

The interactive model of Greenwood is available on The New York Times website as “What the Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed,” New York Times, 24 May 2021. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission has information on commemorations this year.

For further reading on the Tulsa Race Massacre and racial violence in early twentieth-century United States, see:

Ellsworth, Scott. Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.

Franklin, John Hope and Scott Ellsworth, eds. The Tulsa Race Riot: A Scientific, Historical and Legal Analysis. Oklahoma City, OK: Tulsa Race Riot Commission, 2000.

Halliburton, R, Jr. The Tulsa Race War of 1921. San Francisco, CA: R and E Research Associates, 1975.

Krugler, David F. 1919, The Year of Racial Violence: How African Americans Fought Back. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

“Tulsa Race Riot: A Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.” Oklahoma Commission to the Study of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, February 28, 2001.

This entry was posted in Atrocities, Cartographic History, Civil Conflict, Civilians and Refugees in War, Crowd Studies, Cultural History, Digital Humanities, History in the Media, History of Race and Racism, History of Violence, Human Rights, Museums and Historical Memory, United States History and Society, Urban History. Bookmark the permalink.

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