The Origins of Racial Violence, in Tulsa and Beyond - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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The Origins of Racial Violence, in Tulsa and Beyond

Join us September 28, 2023 at 6:30 p.m.
All Souls Unitarian Church

See the full schedule here.

This event will cover chapters 1-8 of Built From the Fire. 

“…the Negro people were getting restless. They had their picture show over there. They were building nice homes over there. In the 1921 recession in Tulsa, white men were losing their jobs, but the Negroes, working or less wages, were kept on. I know. I was just a girl, but I wasn’t surprised when this white boy called me and said there was going to be a race riot.”

White Tulsan Margaret Wilsey reflecting on racial climate of 1920s Tulsa, courtesy Ruth Sigler Avery Collection at OSU-Tulsa Library

The Tulsa Race Massacre didn’t happen in a vacuum – it was seeded by the racial hatred within local government and media, as well as the white vigilantism condoned by law enforcement. This conversation will explore the politics of Tulsa before the race massacre, and the echoes of those politics we see in our national issues today. We’ll also draw parallels between what unfolded in Tulsa and the 1919 race massacre in Elaine, Arkansas, helping people understand that racial violence was not a local but a national phenomenon. Live music and poetry by artist Written Quincey will accompany this talk.

The Key Chapters

“The residents of Greenwood bore the burden of living in two Americas at once–the idealize version imagined in the minds of white slaveholders in 1776, and the more brutal reality that black Tulsans and their ancestors bore witness to long before and after that year.” – Chapter. 4, p. 57

Chapter 4 of Built From the Fire examines the early racial politics of Tulsa and Oklahoma, explaining how Jim Crow segregation was imported from the Deep South. Chapter 5 illustrates how racist policy and rhetoric spilled over into racist violence, not only in Tulsa in cities across the country during the Red Summer of 1919. 

The Panelist

Bryan Hembree, Director of Arts & Culture at the University of Arkansas Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education

Bryan Hembree is the Director of Arts and Culture at the University of Arkansas’ Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education. 

Additional Reading


  • Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Massacre of 1919 by Grif Stockley and Guy Lancaster
  • Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America by Cameron McWhirter
  • A History of the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma by Carter Blue Clark


Primary Sources

About the Venue

All Souls Unitarian Church was founded in 1921 on the principles of freedom, reason, fellowship, service and character. Today, membership includes business, state and civic leaders, and people from all walks of life, who hold a broad spectrum of personal and political views. The congregation has sought and called young clergy who were unafraid to exercise the power and freedom of the pulpit to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable; ministers who were unafraid to speak out in the community about reproductive rights, civil rights and the rights of those who had suffered past wrongs.

Address: 2952 S Peoria Ave, Tulsa, OK 74114

Free parking on site.