‘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: '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 from Café Babylon)

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magiamma's picture

and have been thinking about it all day. No words. We do not deserve to be called humane. Thanks for digging this up. I will pass it on.

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wendy davis's picture

@magiamma

i know it'll sound odd, but i've had this link for a week or so, and dragged it from word document to the next ones. only this morning did i open it...and almost fainted at the depth and breadth of B.C. Franklin's account: 10 years later, OMG.

i was also glad to realize that my earlier thoughts that black wall street had been 'fire-bombed' was so.

i'll add this: Tulsa Race Riots (Pt. 2) | Watchmen S01E01 | HBO

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One of the others is the 1985 Philadelphia incident were police dropped bombs on a home occupied by Black Liberation activists.

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wendy davis's picture

@wouldsman

it's certainly worth checking out but holy hell:

...on a home occupied by Black Liberation activists.

thank you, wouldsman.

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travelerxxx's picture

I first found out about Greenwood in the mid 80s. While I can no longer remember how I became exposed to it, I distinctly remember being so shocked at my ignorance of the event that I headed straight to the Lafayette (Louisiana) public library to see what I could find. It's years ago now, of course, and I don't recall any of the texts, but one thing I remember reading was that it was US Army bombers that dropped bombs. As I recall, the material I read said the aircraft came from a base somewhere in southern Missouri. I might be wrong about that and it wasn't Missouri, but rather Arkansas. However, more than one source stated that the aircraft were US military aircraft, bombers specifically.

Is any of that I read back then correct? I don't know. Wish I could remember exactly what the sources were for this information. I vaguely remember old newspaper articles, but it's been a long time.

None of my friends or co-workers knew anything about this ...except for the fellow I drove to work with. He was a Black man, a few years younger than me. Our ride to work was about an hour and a half, once every seven days. We had plenty of time to talk. When I asked him about it, he said he knew about it but he didn't really ever want to talk about it. He wasn't surprised that I'd never heard of it. Interestingly enough, about a year later, he quit our company to take a job in Tulsa.

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wendy davis's picture

@travelerxxx

now that's a bi-plane in the photo, but the only military that's been mentioned (iirc) has been the national guard. did franklin mention private planes? it seems someone had...was it the following video? ach, i watched a number of the shorter ones.

a bit more on the the surreal travesty:

'The massacre of Tulsa's "Black Wall Street"

g'night, amigo.

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travelerxxx's picture

@wendy davis

I'll try to remember more of what I read about this event, but my research was decades ago now. Good chance I'll draw a blank.

One of the things that made an impression on me at the time was the claim that the aircraft were military. Of all the details, that's one that has stuck with me. Doesn't mean what I read was correct, but I'm pretty certain about reading it. I'm also pretty certain that it was stated in more than one source, which is why I've put some weight to it.

In the years since I originally researched, anytime the subject has come up I've always mentioned about the aircraft being military. So, I've held this view for a long time and didn't start this yesterday, etc. I just wish I could remember the sources.

Hope you have a good night's rest.

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wendy davis's picture

@travelerxxx

your first comment such short shrift, and especially this:

None of my friends or co-workers knew anything about this ...except for the fellow I drove to work with. He was a Black man, a few years younger than me. Our ride to work was about an hour and a half, once every seven days. We had plenty of time to talk. When I asked him about it, he said he knew about it but he didn't really ever want to talk about it. He wasn't surprised that I'd never heard of it. Interestingly enough, about a year later, he quit our company to take a job in Tulsa.

later i'd been trying to imagine what those reasons were.

now what you've described is texts about the bombing/massacre, but what i did find bingling just now was this, and it's too long for me, and i hope it is just the 19+ minutes. it seems to be a portion of a much longer video, though. plus, i hope it contains what it's advertised.

Occulted History ~ The Militarized Bombing of Black Wall Street in 1921

to say the truth, i had bad dreams again last night; i've been more off than usual. leonard peltier was in one, but that may have been a displacement for news mr. wad mentioned before i shut down for the night: more sick and specious charges levied against julian assange. i'll go copy pate some of it together.

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wendy davis's picture

@wendy davis

you've had the time and wherewithal to watch it, as i haven't.

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wendy davis's picture

to close with:

I Am Not Your Negro - Official Trailer

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RantingRooster's picture

on the next big meteor to wipe us all out. I'm not sure we (humans) deserve to continue our existence. We the plebs are too busy fighting among our selves, trying to "vote", when our votes don't matter.
Sad

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"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance;" - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

wendy davis's picture

@RantingRooster

headlines, there are always 2 or 3 meteors ready to hit the earth. ; ) but i'm with you, even if it's too late now to save humanity from climate chaos (or come to think of it, nuclear war), dolphins and cockroaches might get a chance to start the evolutionary process over.

Vote your way to Social Justice for all™!

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Property damage during protests. They can shove it. We are at war. The right wing cops are killing Americans. Anyone upset by property damage can fuck off.
It's war.

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wendy davis's picture

@Battle of Blair Mountain

The Rule of Law is based on property ownership? but the capitalist ruling class has always been protected by the police. i'd read recently that one out of five po-po in amerika are vets. i'd have thought it was closer to two out of three or so.

i see many are calling for 'community control of police', but there seem to be a couple different ways that would work, from popular resistance's newsletter definition/s to glen ford's and beyond.

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