‘The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims’ by B.C. Franklin; an eyewitness account

The 1931 manuscript, “The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims,” by B.C. Franklin was recovered from a storage area in 2015 and donated to the African American History Museum.

On magiamma’s June 11, 2020 Hot Air, she’d featured this testimonial of Kimberly Jones’ ‘How We Can Win’, in which she speaks so scathingly and eloquently of ‘Black Economics in America’, and mentions the burnings of Tulsa and Rosewood.  She blasts: “you broke the contract when we built wealth in Tulsa and you dropped bombs on us!  At the time, I was so blown away…that I hadn’t noticed ‘you dropped bombs on us!. 
Somewhere in the comment stream I’d mentioned that as my memory had it, Greenwood’s Black Wall Street had been fire-bombed, but none of the accounts we’d brought in the comment stream had mentioned it.

From smithsonianmag.com, May 27, 2016A Long-Lost Manuscript Contains a Searing Eyewitness Account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

“An Oklahoma lawyer details the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood where hundreds died 95 years ago.

The manuscript, “The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims,” by B.C. Franklin was recovered from a storage area in 2015 and donated to the African American History Museum.

The ten-page manuscript is typewritten, on yellowed legal paper, and folded in thirds. But the words, an eyewitness account of the May 31, 1921, racial massacre that destroyed what was known as Tulsa, Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” are searing.

“I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top,” wrote Buck Colbert Franklin (1879-1960).

The side-walks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from, and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught from the top,” he continues. “I paused and waited for an opportune time to escape. ‘Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?’ I asked myself. ‘Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?’”

In the manuscript, Franklin tells of his encounters with an African-American veteran, named Mr. Ross. It begins in 1917, when Franklin meets Ross while recruiting young black men to fight in World War I. It picks up in 1921 with his own eyewitness account of the Tulsa race riots, and ends ten years later with the story of how Mr. Ross’s life has been destroyed by the riots. Two original photographs of Franklin were part of the donation. One depicts him operating with his associates out of a Red Cross tent five days after the riots.

Practicing law in a Red Cross tent are B.C. Franklin (right) and his partner I.H. Spears with their secretary Effie Thompson on June 6, 1921, five days after the massacre.

John W. Franklin, a senior program manager with the museum, is the grandson of manuscript’s author and remembers the first time he read the found document.

“I wept. I just wept. It’s so beautifully written and so powerful, and he just takes you there,”  Franklin marvels. “You wonder what happened to the other people. What was the emotional impact of having your community destroyed and having to flee for your lives?”

The younger Franklin says Tulsa has been in denial over the fact that people were cruel enough to bomb the black community from the air, in private planes, and that black people were machine-gunned down in the streets. The issue was economics. Franklin explains that Native Americans and African-Americans became wealthy thanks to the discovery of oil in the early 1900s on what had previously been seen as worthless land.”

If you’d like to read Franklin’s entire manuscript, I did find it a slate.com, Oct. 23, 2019

The opening scenes of HBO’s Watchmen depict the Tulsa Massacre, a catastrophic 1921 race riot in which machine guns, firebombs, and even airplanes were turned on the residents of the city’s black Greenwood district. The show’s filmmakers went to great lengths to accurately depict what actually happened, but “what actually happened” isn’t entirely knowable, at least in part because there was a concerted effort to cover it up. To take just one example, the show depicts a newspaper headlined “TO LYNCH NEGRO TONIGHT,” and witnesses remember an inflammatory editorial running in that day’s Tulsa Tribune, but the actual text may never be known because someone carefully removed two stories from that day’s Tribune before it was photographed and converted to microfilm. Oklahoma’s official report on the massacre from 2001 reflects this reality; it’s full of places where the truth is no longer knowable, starting with the number of casualties. But a few first-person accounts survived, and one of the most vivid is “The Tulsa Race Riot and Three of Its Victims,” an unpublished manuscript from 1931 containing the recollections of B.C. Franklin, a prominent black lawyer in Tulsa.

(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)

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