5 Facts About the Tulsa Race Massacre

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

During an 18-hour period between May 31 and June 1, 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma, became the setting of one of the most devastating racial massacres to happen on U.S. soil. The Tulsa Race Massacre killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people, and left a permanent scar on one the most vibrant Black communities in America.

Despite the impact of the event, it's still omitted from textbooks today. Here are some facts you should know about the Tulsa Race Massacre.

1. Tulsa’s African-American business district was known as “Black wall Street.”

In early 1921, Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood was home to the majority of the city's 10,000 Black residents, making it the second-largest African-American community in Oklahoma. It was also one of America’s wealthiest Black neighborhoods at the time. It boasted a library branch, two newspapers, and a prosperous business district dubbed “Black Wall Street.”

2. There’s some confusion over what sparked the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Though Tulsa was an affluent town, it was embroiled in crime and racial tensions. White mobs were known to lynch people they suspected of crimes in the name of vigilante justice, and the police did little to stop them. These lynch mobs barely needed a reason to launch a crusade if their target was Black.

On May 31, 1921, a Black teenager named Dick Rowland was arrested following an incident that occurred in the Drexel Building on South Main Street the previous day. After he entered the elevator of the office building, the elevator operator—a white woman named Sarah Page—screamed, and Rowland fled. While it was this incident that sparked the Tulsa Race Massacre, it's not exactly clear what transpired between Rowland and Page. The most common story is that Rowland stepped on Page's foot, causing her to yelp in pain. But the Tulsa Tribune had a different story; it reported that Rowland had tried to rape Page, and a mob of angry white residents showed up at the courthouse demanding the police hand him over.

3. It's unclear just how many people were killed during the Tulsa Race Massacre, but it's one of America's most deadly incidents of racial violence.

Law enforcement refused to release Rowland to the mob, but the crowd didn’t disperse. A group of armed Black men showed up at the courthouse to offer the police their support in protecting Rowland. Tensions rose between the two groups and shots were fired, kicking off a riot that would last for approximately 18 hours, until June 1.

The mob of hundreds of angry white Tulsans infiltrated Greenwood, where they looted and burned homes and businesses and attacked unarmed residents. More than 1200 houses and buildings were burned, including a school, a library, a hospital, churches, and both of Greenwood's newspapers. Between 50 and 300 people were likely killed in the massacre, making it one of the deadliest incidents of racial violence in U.S. history.

4. Police may have encouraged violence during the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Tulsa police weren’t able to control the riot, and they may have even helped fuel it. According to an eyewitness account, the authorities armed and deputized white members of the mob and used racial slurs when encouraging them to go after Black Tulsans. When the National Guard eventually arrived to stop the violence, they mainly focused on protecting a white neighborhood from imaginary threats instead of attending to the Black neighborhood that was on fire.

5. There was an effort to erase the Tulsa Race Massacre from history.

The Tulsa Race Massacre is missing from many school curriculums and history books today. That’s because in the years that followed, there was a concerted effort to suppress the story. The Tulsa Tribune article accusing Dick Rowland of assault, which originally ran as a front-page story, was removed from bound volumes of the paper, and accounts of the incident were wiped from police and state militia archives. In the decades after the massacre, there were no public memorials or other events commemorating it.

It wasn't until 1997—a full 76 years after the event—that the government formed an official Race Riot Commission to investigate the details of the Tulsa Race Massacre. In 2020, just one year away from the 100-year anniversary, an extensive curriculum on the massacre was finally provided to Oklahoma school districts.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Hamilton Cast Discusses the History and Impact of the Musical in New Disney+ Exclusive

The real work begins after the final bow.
The real work begins after the final bow.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

On Friday, July 10, Disney+ will release Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes on You, a conversation with key original cast members and creators that covers everything from personal memories to thoughts on how the musical can expand our understanding of America’s past.

Moderated by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, the program features Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, Leslie Odom Jr. (Aaron Burr), Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler), Daveed Diggs (Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson), and Christopher Jackson (George Washington).

Also in attendance is Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard University history professor and leading scholar on Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with his enslaved maid, Sally Hemings. Hemings is mentioned briefly in Hamilton, and the contentious topic of slavery crops up in a few pithy insults directed at various characters, but some viewers have criticized how the production largely glosses over the issues and glorifies the Founding Fathers as sympathetic and respectable leaders.

Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes on You is a chance for Miranda and his team to discuss the decisions that went into fitting a long, complex history into a series of musical numbers—and for Gordon-Reed to offer a historian’s perspective on how we should interpret Hamilton.

“The really important thing, I think, is for people after they’ve watched it to go and find out more,” she says in a preview clip on Good Morning America. (If you’re wondering where to start, you might want to take a closer look at some of those history-packed lyrics.)

You can stream the special starting tomorrow, which leaves plenty of time to watch the musical on Disney+ again … and again. If you still need a subscription to Disney+, head here to sign up.

[h/t Good Morning America]