Monday, July 25, 2016

Alfalfa Bill Murray & His 34 Declarations Of Martial Law

Books can be written about Alfalfa Bill Murray. But with his populism there was also a bravado which got him into trouble.

 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  After the  two failed governorships of Walton & Johnson, the next governor, elected in 1930 at the onset of the Great Depression, was William H. Murray, better known as "Alfalfa Bill." A couple decades earlier, Murray had chaired Oklahoma's constitutional convention, leading to statehood. He acquired a national reputation of sorts partly because of his oddball behavior. Like Jack Walton he was a great showman. He presented himself as one with the common farmers in language and in dress. He dressed in rumpled clothing, including the trademark long johns that extended conspicuously below his pant legs. His language could be crude, even obscene. That he was mostly an opportunist interested in electoral gain is suggested by his background. He had worked as a teacher and reporter, had read law, and had gained recognition as expert in tribal land claims. The woman he married was related to a tribal chief. These are high-status traits, not those of an unlettered, rumpled farmer.
  In office he did champion ordinary farmers and others in distress. Nevertheless, his own state programs did not get far, partly because of the Great Depression and partly because of his irascible personality. He clashed with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, feeling that FDR had ridiculed him. Federal officials bypassed Murray and thus cut him out of much patronage. Murray became enraged and consumed by vindictiveness in his opposition to FDR and the New Deal, an attitude that stayed with him after he left office. To the end of his days he railed against the New Deal, communists, and "International Jewry." Worst of all was his willingness to invoke martial law, which he did a total of thirty-four times.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Oklahoma's Psychic Governor, Henry Johnson

 Psychics have always had their opponents and their adherents. One fan of such things was a former governor in the 1920s

Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  After Walton was thrown out in his first year, through impeachment, the next freely elected governor in 1926 was Henry S. Johnston, who suffered a fate similar to Walton's, although not because of criminal misconduct. He spent much time in his office reportedly engaged in solitary meditation and consultation with his personal astrologer. His administrative assistant had a room full of caged canaries with whom he claimed to communicate. The governor's personal secretary ran a tight ship that effectively cut off legislators wanting to discuss vital patronage matters. Legislators became furious and, in keeping with these turbulent times, ousted Johnston from office in January 1929. Thus by this early date the young state had removed two sitting governors from office, a record not matched by any other state until much later.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Jack Walton's Brief Governorship & Impeachment

Some say this man should have been in the entertainment business, or perhaps an evangelist? But his antics led to his quick exit from state high office.

 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said;
  The period of the 1920s and 1930s was one of bitter political strife. Martial law was invoked repeatedly, and two sitting governors were removed from office. Jack Walton was the first to be removed. Elected in 1920, he ran a spectacular campaign heavy in showmanship. But in office he was a disaster. He publicly fought the Klan yet unofficially colluded with them. He wildly extended patronage powers to appoint college presidents and professors, arousing intense opposition. He invoked martial law and at one point had the whole state under martial law. Inaugurated on January 9, 1923, he was impeached and was removed from office in the same year on November 23.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Tulsa Race Riot & Cover Up

  Not many years after 1907 statehood, a race riot in 1921 convulsed Tulsa. The triggering event, inflamed by local newspaper reports, was an accusation that a black man had sexually assaulted a white woman. Racial tensions, abetted by growing Ku Klux Klan activities, had been on the rise for some time. Some commentators have described the riot as one of the nation's worst. The body count is uncertain but ranges from seventy or eighty to as many as three hundred. A destructive fire raged through the Greenwood District, destroying homes and a prosperous business section. Thousands of blacks were rounded up as "suspects" and jailed, some for a week or so. At the time, many whites reacted with horror. But a veil of denial, created mainly by public officials, descended. 
  History books usually gave this episode only passing mention. Not until the late 1990s was the riot reexamined and made the subject of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission that undertook further inquiry, including consideration of possible reparations. Whatever else might be said, the veil of denial had been lifted.
  Here's a research paper, presented by an undergrad student at the University of Tulsa, nearly 70 years later.



This paper is a discussion about the Tulsa Race Riot that occurred in 1921, and presents an argument that suggests that the Riot was not one event, but rather two separate, but linked events, each with their own separate set of causes.
Written to fulfill course requirements for a Bachelors Degree in History at Oklahoma State University; 1 January 1989 (HTMLized 1 February 1999)
The original copy of this paper is housed in the Special Collections department at McFarlin Library, University of Tulsa.

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is a little-known and somewhat misunderstood event in the history of the United States. It is generally considered, on those rare occasions it is discussed, to have been an isolated event in Tulsa's past that resulted in death and considerable destruction. The theories about what happened and why are divers and often conflicting. With the paucity of information available, it is difficult to determine absolutely the course of events. Enough evidence exists, however, to justify the drawing of certain limited conclusions.The conclusions presented in this paper stem from a view the Tulsa Race Riot, not as a single occurrence, but as two separate but linked events. Each event evolved from separate sets of causes. Each set of causes originated in the social context that existed prior to the events. It should be possible to determine some of these causes and from there interpolate other logical causes.In the years bridging the second and third decades of the twentieth century, episodes of racial tension and violence were frequent. In July of 1917, East St. Louis, Illinois erupted into a bloody battle between blacks and whites after an aluminum plant began to hire black workers to break a strike. Three hundred people were killed, and hundreds were injured.1 In August of the same year, more than one hundred black soldiers of the 3d Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment stationed in Houston, Texas mutinied against their officers. The mutineers seized arms and ammunition and engaged in a three hour riot. This riot was in protest to the abuses that local white civilians had perpetrated against the soldiers and the lack of concern about those abuses shown by the unit's commanders.2 As a final example, the Chicago Race Riot in late July, 1919 was based in a long-standing dispute over white-black neighborhood boundaries. A young black male accidentally entered a recreation area that was reserved for whites, triggering this riot that quickly moved beyond this otherwise minor incident and after a week of violence left many dead and wounded.3These are samples of the more striking episodes in an epidemic of racial violence that existed between 1917 and 1922.4 The Tulsa riot was one of the last disturbances of this kind before the Detroit Race Riot in 1942.5Each riot was catalyzed by an incident that seemed important to the instigators, but was often relatively minor when viewed in retrospect. The trigger event only gained importance in conjunction with the ongoing attitudes and already extant tensions. Of primary significance were the causes that had led up to the point of violence. For example, in the Chicago riot the trigger was insignificant, simply a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the potential for violence had been prepared beforehand by years of perceived threats to white neighborhood boundaries by black economic expansion. When that young man entered that area, the seeds of violence that had lain dormant finally sprouted.6The Tulsa riot found its trigger in an elevator mishap and a newspaper article. An article appeared on the first page of the Tuesday, 31 May 1921 Tulsa Tribune headlined "Nab Negro for attacking girl in elevator", along with an "inflammatory" editorial.The article and editorial described an attack by a young black man upon a white woman in a downtown Tulsa office building elevator.8The young woman, Mrs. Sarah Page, filed a complaint against Dick Rowland, the young man, and by the next morning he was in police custody. That afternoon the headline and article appeared. The article's description of the episode caused tremendous tension throughout both black and white Tulsa.9 Almost immediately talk of lynching Rowland for the assault began to circulate, along with reports that the assault had sexual overtones.10Several black leaders began to organize for the possible necessity of defending Rowland from a lynch mob.11 The police also prepared to repel a possible lynch mob. The chief of police had Rowland transferred to a detention cell in the county jail, on the top floor of the courthouse. The county jail was considered by both the police and sheriff's department to be easily defendable.12By 7.30 p.m., a crowd of three hundred white curiosity-seekers had formed around the courthouse.13 An hour and a half later, the crowd had swelled to over four hundred.14 After an abortive attempt by three white men to remove Rowland from custody, the sheriff effectively barricaded the prisoner, himself, and his men into the office.15A "company of armed and hostile"16 blacks marched up the street to the jail at 8.00 p.m. They had come to offer their services to the authorities who had Rowland in custody. They wanted to protect him from a lynch mob, such as the one that had hung Roy Belton, a white man, a year earlier.17 The sheriff and one of his black deputies convinced the men that they were not required and should return home quietly. The blacks left.18The white crowd was still growing an hour later19 when several carloads of armed blacks arrived at the courthouse. Approximately seventy-five men got out of the cars.20 Their arrival sparked a great deal of shouting, harsh words and insults between the crowds of whites and the blacks.21The Tulsa National Guard command communicated with higher headquarters at 10.15 p.m., in order to keep those up the chain of command abreast of the disturbance. General Charles F. Barrett, the National Guard Adjutant General, who was in constant communication with both the Tulsa unit and the Governor, told the unit's officers that they should mobilize only to guard the armory, and that they were to assist the civil authorities if necessary. The Governor was the only person who could mobilize the unit, and he could not officially do so unless the civil authorities felt that they were no longer able to control the situation.22At 10.30 p.m., encounters took place between individual whites and groups of armed blacks near the railroad tracks.23 At the courthouse no violence had as yet occurred.The 'spark' that touched off the riot was an incident between a white deputy and an armed black man outside the courthouse. The deputy was attempting to disarm one of the blacks when the gun for which they were wrestling discharged.24The crowd panicked and split into several confused groups. The armed blacks and the police began firing, first into the air, then eventually into the crowds and at each other. The police, quickly joined by the few armed whites, drove the blacks north. Many of the unarmed whites, led by a few police officers, broke into pawn shops and hardware stores searching for weapons and ammunition.25The battle rushed north, dividing along several of the main streets until it reached First Street. There the blacks drew, and for a short time held, a battle-line. The line broke after an hour and a half of shooting and the blacks fell back a block north to the railroad tracks. A line of black snipers formed at the tracks to prevent the white rioters from entering the black district. The blacks held back the whites across a "no man's land" of gravel and steel.26Shortly after midnight, the whites attempted to burn down the buildings protecting the black snipers. This arson, however, had no strategic result at the time.27Between 12.30 and 2.30 a.m., the battleground fell relatively silent, disturbed only by the occasional, sporadic gunfire from one side or another.28 No record exists of any moves made, by either side, to establish mutual, peaceful communication.It is this period that defines the division of the riot into two separate events. Before this period of relative calm, the riot was an armed brawl. After this point, the hostilities assume the guise of organized urban warfare. The riot shifted emphasis, and became two separate events.It is possible that, during this two-hour lull, the authorities could have put an end to the riot, had they taken any form of calm and decisive action directed towards that goal. The decisive actions that they did take only nurtured the violence. These actions included establishing and overseeing the arming of a small army of "Special Deputies", mostly volunteers from the white rioters.29Serious confusion existed, and still exists, as to who was actually in charge. There was a division between a minority of police officers and sheriff's deputies who were trying to maintain the peace, and those who were leading the special deputies.30 No actions were taken against armed whites violating the law, while all blacks caught on the streets were arrested. The only preparations that were made by the whites were those done to put down and contain the blacks.31At roughly 2.30 a.m., the battle increased in intensity as the whites tried to weaken the black's defenses and push across the railyard. They were pushed back by the black defenders who were now joined by other blacks coming to defend their homes from an invasion of their district by the whites.32It is impossible to establish an accurate timetable of the next morning because of the confusion inherent in the events. At daybreak, the loosely organized army of white rioters entered the black district in two movements. The first movement was a push from the south that came across the railyard, covered by white snipers. According to one witness, there was a machine gun atop the granary tower that covered this southern push as well.33 This push moved through the business district, and into the neighborhood, looting and burning.34 The second front attacked from the north down Standpipe Hill. A machine gun on the hilltop covered this attacking force. This second front ran into, and through, crowds of black refugees who were fleeing from their homes.35 Whites in spotter planes oversaw the entire battle. These planes, with no known official authority, were used to locate pockets of black resistance for the white ground forces.36 Eyewitness reported outrages committed by whites as the white belligerents swept over the district. Most of these reports involved the murder of blacks who had surrendered or were obviously non-hostile or noncombatants.37It can not be supposed that the relative majority of the white population was involved in the invasion, nor even in favor of it. There is a report of a white policeman trying to stop the white invaders at daybreak from crossing the rail-line.38 A National Guard captain was shot while trying to stop the whites atop Standpipe Hill from machine-gunning refugees.39 However, those police trying to protect the black populace were ineffective, and there were other police in apparent collusion with the white looters40 The police slowly brought the surviving black populace into "protective custody."41At 8.00 a.m., National Guard troops, under General Barrett, arrived from Oklahoma City42 What they did between that time and 11.29 a.m.,43 when General Barrett declared martial law, is not documentable. The fighting came to a stop when martial law was declared. The black district, after five to six hours of battle and looting, was a mass of black clouds of smoke rolling above the ruins of thirty-some city blocks of rubble and ashes.44 Conservatively, $1.5 million in real estate, including the black business district once called the "Black Wall Street",45 had been destroyed.Because very little has been written about the riot, a discussion of the primary authors on the subject is not difficult. Contemporary accounts centered their attention on the beginning of the riot and the armed blacks marching on the courthouse. Thus placing the white segment of the community in the position of defending itself. These accounts, however, tend to ignore the retributive counter-invasion.General Barrett's history of Oklahoma46, and Colonel Douglas's history and description of contemporary Tulsa47 typified the official view of the little-discussed riot. Barrett was the Commanding Officer of the National Guard troops that came and restored order. His history makes a concerted effort to keep any apparent bias from damaging his credibility as an historian. Douglas was also present during the events of the riot, although only as an uninvolved observer. He also tries to maintain a clear picture of the events, but is not as successful as Barrett in keeping a bias against the black participants from coloring his narrative.Mary Parrish, a black woman, made a collection of accounts told by survivors, and published these shortly afterwards together with her own experience of the riot. Mrs. Parrish's account, and the others collected in her book, are from the perspective of blacks who were forced from their homes, usually by heavy fighting nearby. Her sources were people who had lost everything they owned. There is a strong criticism against the initial rioters, both black and white, as well as the white looters. Her book is a major source for the study of the riot, but its contradictions and inconsistencies clearly show the innate difficulties in comparing multiple eyewitness accounts.48A number of firsthand accounts of the events given by blacks who survived the events exist, but none of the accounts are from people who were actually involved in the riot or the battle. Many of their accounts take as fact events that may have well been rumor or conjecture.49Also, few of the firsthand accounts found after the fact show the events from a white perspective. Most whites seemed to be unwilling to talk about the subject, although all of the official documentation that is available is from a white point of view. No one who will admit to having actually been involved have left a firsthand account of either the riot or the destruction of north Tulsa. Witnesses seem unwilling to commit, or possibly incriminate themselves, and so it is difficult to establish firmly what has happened. Much of the primary source material are interviews taken generally from people who were not directly involved in the combat. Even newspapers and the other official sources have trouble corroborating each other on details.The newspaper accounts are an interesting study in themselves. In 1921, the Tulsa Tribune was a newspaper with a strong racist bias, and yellow journalistic tendencies, and thus much of its reporting is suspect. This paper places the blame for the riot squarely on the shoulders of the "Bad Niggers" and their militant activities against the white population.50 The Tulsa World, on the other hand, had a less pronounced editorial viewpoint. On the morning of the riot, the World published five editions as it tried to maintain timeliness in its coverage.51 Copies of the black papers in town from the period are almost impossible to locate, but clippings about the riot and its aftermath have survived that state that the white population and its treatment of the blacks were to blame for the riot, and its aftermath.52Official documentation for the riot is even more difficult to find than black newspapers. Many of the police and court records are missing or unavailable. The report made by the grand jury, which had been convened by the governor to investigate the riot, placed the blame for the rioting on the black militants, an ineffective police department, the inflammatory reporting by an unnamed newspaper, and a laxity in segregation that led to unnecessary mixing of the races.53 The reports made by the Red Cross during the weeks after the riot list some important figures on damage and number of people treated for injuries, but shed no light on any details such as names or even give a death toll.54As the years progressed, public feeling about the riot seems to have changed. Loren L. Gill's master's thesis, although written twenty-five years after the riot, could easily be placed with the contemporary accounts, as much of his information is from eyewitness sources, as well as the sparse official record. This thesis was the first real historical study on the subject. Gill tends to blame black agitators for actually starting the riot. He feels, however, that they may have had reason for doing so.55The next interpretation of the event was not made until 1971. It was initially written as a newspaper article noting the fiftieth anniversary of the riot. Written by Ed Wheeler, this article's Change in perspective clearly indicates that perception of the riot had changed, possibly as a result of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s.56 Wheeler presents a view of the riot that stresses white culpability. His account is relatively impartial until he begins to discuss the aftermath of the riot. He is the first writer to speculate on a "cover-up" after the events based on the lack of information that is available. As his work progresses Wheeler becomes more interested in the "conspiracy of silence" that he sees in the riot's aftermath than he is in the riot itself.57R. Halliburton published his article, "The Tulsa Race War of 1921", in the Journal of Black Studies shortly after Wheeler's article saw print. Halliburton presents the view that the riot and ensuing destruction were an assault led by a white element against a peaceful and affluent black district. Halliburton, in his article, as well as in his later book of the same name, paints a portrait of complete white guilt.58Finally, Scott Ellsworth published in 1982 what may well be the most influential work on this subject, Death in a Promised Land. Ellsworth's work is basically fair to both sides; however, he still writes from the view that the whole sequence of events of the riot were primarily the fault of white Tulsa. Ellsworth carefully draws a valid portrait of an economically successful black section of Tulsa. Ellsworth centers the blame for the riot on the inability of the white population to accept the economic successes of "one of the finest black commercial districts in the entire southwest." He also contends that the Ku Klux Klan had a great influence on the events.59In examining the events of 31 May-1 June 1921 it is interesting to note that the that ideas most commonly held about the riot by the public are those that have little, if any, documentable basis. For example, Wheeler continually emphasizes the missing information, and while that lack of information appears to support his claims of a "conspiracy", it is speculation. Similar ideas appear repeatedly through out the literature and in interviews, but are still speculative in nature.60The events that can be documented as occurring reveal glimpses into the origins of the riot and destruction. In tracing those origins, the theory that the riot and the destruction were two different, but related, incidents becomes apparent. An examination of those pressures and of the causes of race riots will show that if fault must be established that each of these events was caused by a relatively small segment of the two segregated populations, which were reacting to social pressures that were consistent with the times.In 1921, no one made any studies of the actual causes of racial disturbances. This type of study was not really begun until the causes of the race riots in the late 1960s were sought for, in the hope of avoiding their reccurance.61 The studies of those later riots are useful when looking at the riot of Tulsa.There is no such thing as a "typical" riot.62 The riot of Tulsa in 1921 differed in many respects from the riots of forty-five years later. Many of those later riots focused against the symbols of white authority, but not against whites specifically. These riots were of a racial nature, not an interracial one.63 In 1921, however, the blacks were not rioting against the de jure white establishment, per se, but rather against the de facto white power structure inherent in the mob violence. When the armed blacks marched on the courthouse in Tulsa they desired to support the legitimate white power structure. This power structure had shown itself, via the Belton incident, to be incapable of self-defense.The problems expressed in 1921 were similar in nature to those expressed in the late sixties. The blacks in the sixties voiced complaints about discrimination in employment, underemployment, inadequate housing and municipal services, discriminatory police practices and administration of justice, an ineffective political structure with little or no mechanism for grievance relief, and the attitude of whites in general towards blacks.64 These charges are also valid for the riot in 1921 Tulsa.In the history of racial relations, the role of the black has been traditionally one of lower status. Discrimination has, through limiting growth possibilities and inhibiting prospects for advancement, kept this status quo.65 This was true in Tulsa, as it was throughout the United States in 1921.Although blacks occupied most fields of employment, they were generally barred from many of the higher status positions.66 Those blacks who bypassed the social barriers, such as doctors, lawyers, and shopkeepers, found themselves forced to offer their services to only other blacks.67 This type of business segregation was more extreme than in Tulsa than in many other places. Tulsa supported its own black business district, two high schools, a hospital, a library, and a movie theatre.68 The urban growth and prosperity of the city had trickled down to the blacks, and although they were in a less favorable position than their white neighbors, they held a higher level of prosperity than that of blacks in many other cities. This level of prosperity was in particular contrast to the rest of Oklahoma, which relied on sharecropping as the primary form of black labor and farm management.69Many blacks were tiring of the low status position that they held in American society. These people were desirous of, if not total equality, at least social acceptance by the white segment of the community. Booker T. Washington had taught for many years that accommodation to the white position was the best idea. Only after each black person developed his own abilities until his own self-esteem had been improved would white society grant the black populace desired respect. Washington felt that no one would respect someone who did not fully respect himself.70Many blacks felt Washington's way was no longer an acceptable alternative. Among these people was the black activist W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois advocated a more direct approach. He felt that agitation and political activity, particularly through the N.A.A.C.P., an organization made up of both blacks and whites, was the only way to gain social acceptance.71The African Blood Brotherhood had another view, a view that seemed to build upon DuBois' arguments. The A.B.B. was a self-admittedly socialist, "secret", organization whose ultimate goa1 was the unification of all black organizations under one central committee. The committee to be made up of the leaders of those organizations under its suzerainty.72 If it took militant activism to achieve that goal, then that would be done.A chapter of the A.B.B. had been founded in Tulsa shortly before the riot, and, also, there had long been a chapter in Tulsa of another socialist organization, the Industrial Workers of the World. Previous encounters with the I.W.W. and a white K.K.K.-like group called the Knights of Liberty had at least once before resulted in a riot and lynchings.73The blacks in American society found themselves trapped. The harsh treatment by the whites caused frustration, leading the blacks to express a desire for a change. That desire to alter the status quo was, in turn, causing the situation to worsen.74This was the general situation in Tulsa in 1921. The already frustrating situation grew even worse. 1920 was a bad year for crops. The black sharecroppers had lived at a subsistence level before the crop failure. Now many found themselves forced off their farms, and eventually gravitated to Tulsa looking for work. In Tulsa, these itinerates only increased the black population without contributing to the economy with either their money or their labor, as there were few, if any, jobs to be had. The black community, segregated into a strictly defined ghetto, was forced to try to deal with this overcrowding in a district that the city government was not willing to assist. The city had not even built sewers into much of the district before the overcrowding, and as the situation worsened, there was little help from the city.75Then, in early 1921, the price of oil dropped suddenly to $1.00 per barrel of crude from nearly $3.00 a barrel.76 Without any warning white workers, previously employed in the oil fields, were placed in direct competition with blacks, particularly the dispossessed sharecroppers, for the few remaining jobs. This economic fluctuation did not strike everyone in Tulsa, but in a community whose economic foundation was the price of oil, nearly everyone felt some of the tension.With the high level of unemployment, the crime rate also rose.77 The police department applied pressure, first on the criminal class, much of whom existed on the border between black and white Tulsa. The police then spread their pressure gradually into the entire black community.  The police had been warned of the possibility of a riot months before it occurred.78 However, the civil authorities had either been totally unconcerned about the problem, or else unable to understand what was happening.79 Early in 1921, an entirely new city administration had been elected. Possibly, the socioeconomic dynamics of this complex situation were beyond the comprehension of the new administration, and their ignorance of the threat potentials led them to ignore the warnings.80Dick Rowland's arrest precipitated a succession of events. After the Belton lynching, the blacks community knew that the civil authorities were incapable of handling the situation effectively. This knowledge, when combined with the general feelings of black powerlessness, made it possible for a small group of activists, allegedly members of the A.B.B.,81 to arouse other blacks who were looking for a way to express their desires for reform.82 The rumored lynch mob preparing to hang Rowland gave an opportunity for such a demonstration. The activists wanted to show white Tulsa that they were not willing to stand still and let this sort of thing continue.83 The primary issue, then, was not Rowland, but the black frustration with the entire socioeconomic situation as it then existed. Such social issues were not likely to be on anyone's mind when the rioting began, but it was likely that these issues prompted the armed black presence that allowed the trigger situation to occur.84The significance of the event quickly moved away from the issue of Rowland's possible lynching as the riot progressed. Different motives, from different sources, led to the destruction. To understand what those motives were, the probable leaders of the white rioters must be examined.A recent view of the riot states that the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the riot.85 This view is fundamentally flawed. The riot occurred on the night of 31 May-1 June, 1921. The first formal appearance of the Klan in Oklahoma took place on 12 August 1921.86 No evidence exists to implicate any Klansmen in fomenting unrest. However, it should be noted that the psychological characteristics of the average Klansman were present in the rioters, and that the large Klan organization, as described in most of the articles on the Klan in Tulsa, benefited from the race riot.87The average member of the Ku Klux Klan was a "decent, hardworking, patriotic if narrow-minded blue-collar worker".88 He was not driven so much by vindictiveness, as by a fear of change.89 The early twentieth century, particularly right after the First World War, was a period of immense social and technological changes, and it was with the desire to maintain feelings of self-esteem, and dignity that these people turned to the Klan.90 The Klan was more than willing to grant validation to these people. The Klan presented a comforting ideology, cloaked in mystery and ceremony, that asserted that the American White Anglo-Saxon Protestant was the most important person on earth.91In Oklahoma, the Klan is purported to have operated covertly for a few months before its formal appearance.92 However, there is no direct evidence of any such operation. Regardless, whether subversive Klan recruiters were in the crowd that night or not, someone directed a need for self-esteem into an already existent violent confrontation. Because of a lack of situational control demonstrated by the authorities, that violence became legitimized in the guise of the special deputies.93 Most whites involved in the rioting only later became involved in the burning and looting, because they saw that such behavior had been legitimized. They were operating as "free riders" on the waves of violence.94 Other whites felt the desire to express their self worth through violence and destruction. While they would have been able to keep that exigency in check under normal circumstances, the existence of the riot's violence allowed these people to vent their desires, their behavior lending a further situational legitimacy to the riot.This situational belief in the legitimacy of the riot may have been further fueled by the cultural racism of the era. It seems to have been culturally normal to discriminate against black people in 1921. With white racism as a cultural norm and the apparent situational acceptance of the riot's violence, it should have been easy for even a relatively small group of white agitators to direct the response away from the armed blacks to blacks in general. This shift in emphasis leading the whites to a retaliatory invasion that quickly degenerated into total destruction, with little, or no regard for lives or property.As this paper has striven to show, the Tulsa race riot and the subsequent destruction of north Tulsa were separate events, and although they were closely related, they did not stem from the same causes. The riot itself resulted from the presence of an armed body of blacks led by a few agitators trying to defend a black man from a perceived threat by a white population. There followed a white response to the invasion by armed and threatening blacks who were evidently seeking violence. The inability of the legitimate authorities to defuse the situation agitated the white response, so that ultimately, when first shots fired, sufficient motivations on both sides caused the shooting to continue.Only a relatively few blacks were involved in the rioting, and certainly only a like segment of white Tulsa was involved in the actual destruction. Small groups of agitators were able to sufficiently direct the other participants in directions that would eventually achieve the agitator's goals. For the black agitators, those goals were Dick Rowland's safety, as well as showing the whites that force would be met with force. The white agitators were able to see to it that the relatively successful blacks, as well as those who weren't successful, were "Put back in their places."

The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 - "Tulsa Race Riot". Copyright © 1989, 1999  I. Marc Carlson
This page is given for the free exchange of information, provided the author's name is included in all future revisions, and no money change hands, other than as expressed above.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Sooners & the Land Run

  The famous Land Run of 1889 was itself a form of fraud, as were later runs. The original Indian removal promised land to the Indians "in perpetuity." But the runs, in opening the territory to large-scale settlement by whites, effectively scuttled the basic idea of Indian Territory as Indian land. White settlers were delighted, and the runs have been widely celebrated. Yet for the Indians the runs meant that whites were again breaking solemn promises made to them.

  Fraud also occurred in the practices of Texas cattlemen who drove their herds across the Indian Territory on the way to market. They were supposed to get the permission of the Indians and pay them fair value. But the Indians lived in tribal communities and knew little about private property and market value. The resulting transactions were apt to be to the disadvantage of the Indian landowners.
 Harry Holloway, of the Oklahoma Historical Society said.
Here's more from an east coast author:

The City Born in a Day 

The bizarre origin story of the surprisingly exceptional Oklahoma City, in a government-sanctioned raid called the Land Run. 

Settlers race for plots during the Land Run, April 22, 1889.
 Photo: Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society 

What follows is an excerpt from Sam Anderson’s new book Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis. Anderson (a former book critic for New York) argues that humble Oklahoma City — 27th most populous city in the country, home of the American Banjo Museum — is, in fact, one of the most secretly interesting places in the world.

That claim might seem outlandish, but the historical evidence backs it up.

Consider, for instance, OKC’s bizarre origin story. It reads less like an episode of actual history than a spaghetti western written by a faulty algorithm. The place was founded on a single afternoon, in an event called the Land Run, during which a formerly empty patch of prairie became a city of 10,000. The chaos that ensued was so alarming that the U.S. government never allowed anything quite like it to happen again. This formative absurdity set the tone for everything that followed: the shootouts and power grabs and even — eventually — NBA basketball. Today, OKC remains a city of booms and busts, of grand gambles, huge wins, and crushing losses. It is a place where oil executives have been reduced, overnight, to mowing people’s lawns, where the sky spawns tornadoes wider than Manhattan, and where humans as different as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook improbably co-existed and thrived.

And it all started on a single day.

When does a city begin?

In most cases, we have no idea. We are forced to invent origin stories: wolves raising twins, eagles carrying snakes. The volcano god belches: civilization.

We want the birth of a city to make sense, to be grand. We want it to lend its citizens meaning. But the reality is almost always far less dramatic. Cities creep into existence, like algae. (Lewis Mumford: “The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap.”) It’s silly to talk about beginnings. No one is standing there firing a starting gun. There is no primordial boom. It happens in slow motion, over generations, by accident. Even if we do happen to know the general outlines — a European explorer found a promising bay, and eventually other Europeans followed him there — almost all the specifics are lost. We’ll never know what most cities were like during their very first hour, minute, second. It doesn’t even really make sense to ask. Cities are not microwave popcorn.

Unless you are talking about Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City is microwave popcorn. It has a birthday: April 22, 1889. Noon. Precisely at that moment, history flipped a switch. Before, there was prairie. After, there was a city.

Oklahoma City was born in an event called, with extreme dramatic understatement, the Land Run. The Land Run should be called something like “Chaos Explosion Apocalypse Town” or “Reckoning of the DoomSettlers: Clusterfuck on the Prairie.” It should be one of the major events in American history. Dramatizations of it should be projected onto IMAX screens with 3-D explosions, in endless loops, forever. Every time you walk into a mall, you should be accosted by fuzzy-headed Land Run characters shouting, “What is America?!” “What does America even mean?!” Because the Land Run was, even by the standards of this very weird nation, absurd. It was a very bad idea, executed very badly. It would be hard to think of a worse way to start a city. Harper’s Weekly, which had a reporter on the ground, called it “one of the most bizarre and chaotic episodes of town founding in world history.” A century later, the scholar John William Reps reviewed the evidence and concurred. The founding of Oklahoma City, he wrote, was “the most disorderly episode of urban settlement this country, and perhaps the world, has ever witnessed.”

An intersection in Oklahoma City’s first days. Photo: Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society

It’s hard, today, to imagine the scale of it — the idea of so many people, wanting so desperately, to move to Oklahoma. But it happened.

Or rather, it was made to happen. A place in the middle of America, on the brink of the 21st century, does not simply found itself. It took force and blood and betrayal and good old opportunistic populist jingoism. For many decades, the area we know today as the state of Oklahoma — the pot-shaped chunk of map between Texas and Kansas — was something else entirely. It was called, simply, “Indian Territory.” As American citizens took over every last pocket of the continent, the U.S. federal government had forced indigenous peoples out of their ancestral homes and into this empty patch of the Great Plains. Oklahoma was the endpoint of all the many Trails of Tears. The Choctaw, the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, and dozens of others — sea people, swamp people, forest dwellers, nomads — moved out into the sprawling grasslands. The area was, officially, off-limits to white settlers. It was promised to the tribes as long as, to quote the famous treaty, “grass shall grow and water run.”

The betrayal of that promise did not take long. It began right at the center of Indian Territory, when two tribes, for complex reasons, sided with the South during the Civil War. As punishment, the U.S. government seized their land and gave it to nobody. The area — about 2 million acres, or roughly 5 percent of the state of Oklahoma as we now know it — came to be called the Unassigned Lands. It was a vacuum, nearly half the size of Connecticut, right near the center of America.

Residents of the neighboring states — Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, Colorado — noticed that emptiness. They became obsessed with it. They lusted after it. They gave it a name: Oklahoma, Choctaw for “red people.” Some managed to convince themselves that Oklahoma was their destiny, that they were somehow entitled to it. They pressured Congress and propagandized in newspapers.

The surrounding tribes, of course, vehemently objected. The Civil War had blown a hole in the center of Indian Territory, but the rest of it was still allegedly guaranteed forever. Allowing white settlers to pour into the Unassigned Lands would threaten the integrity of everything that surrounded it. Who could say what chaos might follow? Congress deliberated. White settlers lobbied.

Finally, predictably, the settlers got their way.

Congress agreed to open Oklahoma — the Unassigned Lands at the center of Indian Territory — for settlement. There was no orderly procedure for doing so, no process. The authorities would simply fling the land open and let everyone go at it. The rules were minimal and extremely hard to enforce. You could claim 160 acres out in the country or a small lot on a townsite. All you had to do was get yourself there, hammer in your stakes, and fight off competitors. Oklahoma would be, more or less, a free-for-all.

When President Harrison signed the document announcing the date of the Land Run — April 22, 1889 — his signature sent a bat signal out over the end of the nineteenth century. Oklahoma was a gift: a free chunk of America for anyone who needed it. But it was also an emergency: It was free only to those who could get there first. The hysteria spread worldwide. European ports, from Liverpool to Hamburg, teemed with sudden (as they were sometimes called) Oklahomaists. There were Scots and Swedes, bands of Mormons from Utah. Classified ads appeared in the newspapers of Chicago and New York calling for meetings of potential settlers.

In southern Kansas, the villages near the border of Indian Territory exploded into temporary boomtowns. Suburbs of tents spread in every direction: tent casinos, tent brothels, tent churches, tent hotels, tent restaurants, tent newspapers. Swindlers arrived to siphon off the settlers’ money. Their victims had to go begging in the shantytown streets, or they just gave up and went home, not only ruined, as they had been when they’d arrived, but now double- or triple-ruined. Something like 100,000 settlers showed up to wait for the starting gun — roughly the entire population, at the time, of Indianapolis. It was far too many people for the amount of good land available, but from the very start, Oklahoma was an idea that far exceeded its reality.

The border of Oklahoma was as tenuous as a border could be: more than 300 miles long and in many places unmarked. Where it was marked, it was often only with barbed wire or a creek or a pile of stones. It was impossible to fully patrol. Rumors circulated about nefarious schemes. Cheaters, it was said, planned to sneak in early and burn the railroad bridges so no one could follow. A French hot air balloonist planned to hover just over Oklahoma until noon, then descend onto his favorite spot before anyone else had a chance.

Living Word Academy students celebrate the anniversary of the opening of Oklahoma Territory to non-Indian settlers with a modern-day “land run.” Photo: Joe Miller, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society

The only thing everyone knew for sure was that they needed to get to Oklahoma first. Time started to twist into itself. “Every man wanted to be 15 minutes ahead of everybody,” one observer wrote, “and not 15 minutes behind anybody.”

The day before the Land Run was Easter Sunday. All day, streams of wagons arrived at the border. The settlers carried civilization with them in tiny pieces, like ants, in order to collectively reassemble those pieces in Oklahoma. They brought all they could afford: shovels, forks, saws, underwear, crackers, bologna, bacon, canteens, dairy cows, heavy machinery, libraries. Some settlers came alone, others as part of strategically assembled teams. Everyone in these roiling crowds was exhausted but giddy. The normal rules of life seemed to have been suspended. Men marched around the temporary camps hooting and firing guns. They wrestled, raced horses, played baseball, sang hymns, and shot recreationally at prairie dogs.

When the settlers woke up the next morning — at least those who had managed to sleep — it was suddenly the day itself: April 22, Land Run Day. The Oklahoma skies were a perfect blue. Troops led the pioneers to the starting line — the membrane inside of which a new civilization was waiting to be born.

Oklahoma was about to happen.

All around the border of the Unassigned Lands, time collapsed into a single moment — noon.

If you think about the concept of “noon” hard enough, like a stoner or a phenomenologist, it starts to get fuzzy around the edges. Is it a clock fact — 12:00 — or is it an astronomical fact: when the sun is directly overhead? The settlers, that day, thought very hard about such questions. Wristwatches along the border were found to differ by as much as half an hour. Unsupervised settlers went with whatever version of noon seemed most advantageous. They squinted at the sun, trusted their guts, and made a run for it. In some places, there were official signals. On the western border of the Unassigned Lands, the military fired its howitzers — loud little snub-nosed cannons — to give people permission to run. In the south, 5,000 people stood in the middle of a river, trying not to sink into the quicksand, waiting for a soldier to blow his bugle. In the north, soldiers held a rope taut across the border to keep the settlers back.

Eventually, non-synchronously, the various noons came. The Land Run began. The people poured in. The moment the bugle touched the bugler’s lips, before he’d even squeezed out a note, the settlers burst through the rope. Oklahoma was born. Rich men rode racehorses they’d bought for enormous sums only days before. Farmers rode broken-down mules. A handful of eccentrics pedaled bicycles. Poor people walked. All over Oklahoma, the people came.

Some settlers stopped just across the border, claiming the first open land they could find. Most, however, raced deeper into the territory. The country was rough, and the settlers’ wagons weren’t designed for it; they hit dry creek beds or buffalo wallows and busted apart. The drivers flew out, got up, limped on. Before long, the prairie was covered with wrecks. Spooked horses threw their riders. At least one man fell and broke his neck. Other horses died of exhaustion. One settler fired his gun to speed up his horse but accidentally shot and killed another settler. It was absolute chaos, an explosion of humans. Actually, it was like a reverse explosion: tens of thousands of people who had been scattered across the globe, who had never had any reason to think they might be connected in any way, were suddenly thrown together in a dense core in the middle of America.

Out on the site that would eventually become Oklahoma City, federal troops waited. This was a perfect place for a hypothetical town, right where the railroad tracks crossed a river, and it drew settlers like a magnet. But there was time. The border was 15 miles off in every direction, in some places much farther, so even a man riding a racehorse at reckless speeds from the nearest point would take roughly an hour to arrive. The troops milled around in the wide open land, near the railroad tracks and the burbling river, among all the wildflowers, and prepared themselves to wait. They could have reasonably expected, at that moment, one last hour of silence.

They would have been wrong. The bugle notes had yet to fade when, like some kind of ancient creation myth, the empty landscape sprouted people. It was an ambush of settlers. “Almost like the rush of jack rabbits from cover,” the historian Stan Hoig describes it, “men suddenly appeared out of the long grass around the depot area, bounding here and there. They dropped from the leafy branches of trees; they crawled out of and from under freight cars; they sprang from gullies and bushes; they poured from the few buildings at the station; and they suddenly came galloping up on horseback from nowhere.” These were, in the lingo of the times, Sooners, or Moonlighters. We would call them cheaters. They had been waiting for this moment for years. Some of them had been hiding out in the wilderness around the station, illegally, for weeks or months, living in holes or bushes or improvised huts, dreaming of the glory of Oklahoma City. Some had leaped off moving trains just the night before, thumping and rolling over the prairie at high speed, breaking various bones — a physical tax on early entry that they were perfectly willing to pay.

At the sound of the bugle, all of the cheaters came running. The land was free, they knew, only for those who got there first. There weren’t nearly enough troops to stop them all, and there was too much chaos to even know whom to stop. An entire crew of surveyors popped out of the wilderness, complete with their equipment — chains, poles — and started organizing the prairie on the run, marking off lots and blocks on a completely theoretical Main Street. Twenty minutes after the bugle sounded, there were already 40 tents set up. By 12:45, 15 minutes before the troops would have expected to see their very first settler, the city’s best spots had all been taken. By the end of the day, tents would stretch to the horizon — it looked, according to Harper’s Weekly, like “a handful of white dice thrown out across the prairie.” The wildflowers were crushed, the soil torn up. The native animals, frogs and ducks and prairie chickens, had scattered. In a matter of hours, one settler wrote, “the natural beauty of the scene was completely obliterated, beyond recognition or hope of repair.”

This was the beginning of Oklahoma City. The town had an almost instant population of 10,000 with no organization whatsoever — no government, no official limits, no laws, no framework for making laws, no legal entity on behalf of which to even build a framework on which to eventually make laws. There was no state of Oklahoma. There was no historical precedent. It was pirate civics. The men who were supposed to be helping the troops, the U.S. marshal and his deputies, were busy instead grabbing the best land for themselves. Technically, government officials were not allowed to claim land, but practically it was a free-for-all. (Most of the deputies had signed on only for this purpose, and they took the bugle call as a signal of their resignation.) The railroad station’s postmaster left his post office — a converted dirt-floored chicken house — and claimed 160 acres right on the edge of town. One military man who’d been stationed just outside Oklahoma City to guard against cheaters spent the weeks leading up to the Land Run building a house on rollers so that he could move it, at noon, to his favorite site in the area. People claimed land not only for themselves but for distant relatives who never intended to come to Oklahoma and for fictional characters they invented on the spot. The settlers of Oklahoma City explored the nearly infinite gradations between cheating and non-cheating. One man who’d sneaked onto the townsite early soaped up his horse to make it look foamy, as if he’d just galloped a long way. Another shaved off his beard and dyed his mustache black so no one would recognize him.

The first legal settler of Oklahoma City, by most accounts, was a rancher named William McClure, one of the major landowners in the territory east of the Unassigned Lands. He came riding into town just before 1:00 p.m. — an inhumanly fast trip. It turned out that McClure had paid some of his cowboys to go into the territory ahead of time and leave a relay of fresh horses along the trail. When McClure’s horse got tired, he jumped onto a new one. When that horse got tired, he switched again. He had found a way, without technically cheating, to outrace time.

Just after 2:00 p.m., in the middle of all that chaos, the first train of settlers pulled into Oklahoma Station. It was 24 cars long. Settlers were hanging off the sides and clinging to the roof; heads and arms were sticking through the broken windows. Eyewitnesses said it looked like a giant centipede wriggling toward the city. As the train began to slow down, passengers came spilling out from all sides. They hit the ground, rolled, and went sprinting for lots. According to one settler, “The whole country where the city now stands was black with a surging, crowding, running, yelling mass of humanity.” “It seemed,” another would remember, “as if some thousands of human beings had gone mad.” The townsite had only one well, and an enterprising settler cornered it immediately, standing on top of it, guns drawn. He set up a lucrative business charging five cents per drink, an exorbitant price that the people, their throats clogged with prairie dust, had no choice but to pay. Eventually, the soldiers seized the well and returned it to the public.

Settlers claimed every available scrap of land, without regard for how the city might eventually function. “Every stake driven represented a gamble,” one of them wrote. “It might prove to be on a lot, when lots should be established, and with almost equal chance it might prove to be on a street or an alley.” One woman staked her claim in the middle of the railroad right-of-way. It took the soldiers some time to convince her that, if she chose to build there, her property would be rumbled to the brink of destruction, over and over, on a regular schedule, for the rest of her natural life.

All day, settlers poured in and jockeyed for plots. When they found a bit of space, they set about improvising crude shelters. At dusk, as if by agreement, everyone suddenly stopped working. They laid down their hammers and rifles, took a break from jockeying for plots. They made campfires. It was the end of what would have been, without exception, the strangest day of everyone’s life. The first night in Oklahoma City must have been profoundly disorienting — some combination of sleepover, refugee camp, Super Bowl tailgate party, sit-in, and Visigoth raid of imperial Rome. These former strangers had become, in no time at all, a single town.

Oklahoma City, from that point on, would grow in fast-forward, a parody of a normal city. Its first year would see contested elections, brawls in city council meetings, and the death — by shooting — of the mayor. Within days there were wooden houses, slapped together quickly out of preassembled frames; within months, brick warehouses and shops; within years, grand stone mansions; within decades, skyscrapers, convention centers, sports arenas — all the precursors of the city’s 21st-century form. Today, OKC is the home of the Thunder, an honest-to-God NBA franchise, as well as a powerful memorial to the bombing of its federal building in 1995 (the deadliest attack on U.S. soil between Pearl Harbor and 9/11). It boasts an 850-foot glass skyscraper that looms nearly twice as tall as any other structure for 100 miles in every direction — a comically huge monument to the oil and gas money on which the local economy was built.

That first night, however, it was only dirt. Dirt on the ground, dirt in the air.

The soil, having lost the anchor of its plants, blew around freely in the wind.

The day had been hot, but the night was uncomfortably cold. Fortunate settlers had tents. Those who didn’t just lay on the ground — strangers, side by side, packed together for warmth. Men walked together through the night, talking. New residents continued to arrive in the dark.

As Oklahoma City struggled to settle down to its first night of sleep, something strange happened, an incident that everyone present would remember for the rest of their lives. Between 10:00 p.m. and midnight — accounts vary — a man’s voice suddenly penetrated the silence. It was deep, slow, and loud enough to carry all the way across the new city, over the tents, the railroad tracks, the cottonwoods, the river, to every one of the 10,000. The message it carried was clear but mysterious. “Oh, Joe!” the voice called out. “Here’s your mule!” This phrase hung in the air, not explaining itself, until suddenly another resident echoed it, every bit as loud: “Oh, Joe — here’s your mule!” The voices crossed, and then other settlers started joining in. “Oh, Joe!” they called. “Here’s your mule!” It turned into a kind of game. Soon the landscape filled with voices shouting the nonsensical mantra, louder and louder: “OH, JOE — HERE’S YOUR MULE!” On a hill a mile from town, federal troops heard the call, and they joined in, too. It was coming now from everywhere, out of sync, overlapping. The words didn’t matter anymore; the particular man and his mule, if they even existed, didn’t matter — as far as most people knew, there was no Joe, there was no mule. The words were a closed loop, an incantation through which Oklahoma City was going to chant itself into existence. This was an experiment in civilization. The place was so new and precarious, so strange, that its residents had to shock themselves into community using whatever method they could find — the way a human body, freezing to death, tries to generate its own heat by shivering. Perhaps that crazy late-night shouting could create just enough of a bond to allow Oklahoma City to withstand the turbulence of the next several days, years, decades. It was later reported that “Oh, Joe — here’s your mule!” spread that night across the entire Unassigned Lands, across Indian Territory, more than 100 miles, all the way back up to Kansas, where most of the settlers had begun.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Liquor And Corruption

  Unless you're a 3rd generation Oklahoman, you probably don't know that prohibition didn't end in the mid 30s, in Oklahoma.

  The demise of Prohibition deserves more than passing mention. Oklahoma was one of the last states to allow strong drink. By the time of repeal in 1959, open saloons serving whatever customers wanted flourished in urban centers, and bootleggers provided fast arid efficient home service for those in dire need.

  No more prohibition.

 A make believe liquor casket containing 'Old Man Prohibition' is hauled jubilantly through the streets with a police escort here, April 7th. The occasion was an election victory that ended 51 years of prohibition in the state.
 The widespread flouting of the law in itself became one of the strong arguments in favor of repeal.
   By this time the state had voted on the liquor issue six times. Finally, on the seventh time, repeal carried the day and thereby reduced a significant source of corruption.
Governor Edmondson won on Prohibition.