35 min

Tulsa Race Massacre - Otis Clark Voices of Oklahoma

    • Society & Culture

The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is considered to be the worst race riot in U.S. history. The actual number of black citizens killed by local, white, militia men and others as a result of the riot was estimated by the Red Cross to be approximately 300. The circumstances leading up to the riot are in question. But late in the afternoon of May 30, 1921, a black teenager, Dick Rowland, used the elevator in the Drexel building in downtown Tulsa. As Dick Rowland exited the elevator, an employee of Renberg’s clothing store heard what was thought to be a scream. The clerk reached the conclusion that Sarah Page, the white elevator operator had been assaulted. Newspaper headlines supported the account and a race riot broke out on May 31, 1921.

Otis Clark was 19 years old on May 31, 1921. Otis was 106 years old at the time of this interview November 23, 2009. While not an eyewitness to the lynch mob–he and his friend were the target of rifle shots. He chose to leave Tulsa to escape the encampments setup for blacks. Otis moved to California where he became an evangelist. In 1998 he returned to Tulsa where he lived for a few years before retiring to Seattle, Washington.

The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 is considered to be the worst race riot in U.S. history. The actual number of black citizens killed by local, white, militia men and others as a result of the riot was estimated by the Red Cross to be approximately 300. The circumstances leading up to the riot are in question. But late in the afternoon of May 30, 1921, a black teenager, Dick Rowland, used the elevator in the Drexel building in downtown Tulsa. As Dick Rowland exited the elevator, an employee of Renberg’s clothing store heard what was thought to be a scream. The clerk reached the conclusion that Sarah Page, the white elevator operator had been assaulted. Newspaper headlines supported the account and a race riot broke out on May 31, 1921.

Otis Clark was 19 years old on May 31, 1921. Otis was 106 years old at the time of this interview November 23, 2009. While not an eyewitness to the lynch mob–he and his friend were the target of rifle shots. He chose to leave Tulsa to escape the encampments setup for blacks. Otis moved to California where he became an evangelist. In 1998 he returned to Tulsa where he lived for a few years before retiring to Seattle, Washington.

35 min

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