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Tulsa Race Massacre: Black Tulsans were detained in camps throughout the city

Tulsa Race Massacre: Black Tulsans were detained in camps throughout the city

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Thousands of black Tulsans were taken into what was described as protective custody on May 31-June 1. Some were released within hours, while others remained in a camp at the fairgrounds for days and even weeks.

Gathering up African American residents was supposed to protect those not involved in fighting and help identify those who were. And those who surrendered do seem to have avoided the worst of the violence.

But the action also opened up the Greenwood District for marauding whites to burn and loot and shoot any blacks remaining in the neighborhood.

The first large-scale gathering place was Convention Hall, now known as the Tulsa Theater. After outgrowing that location, detainees were taken to McNulty Park, the minor league ballpark at 10th Street and Elgin Avenue, where the Warehouse Market facade and Home Depot are now. There they were fed and given water while National Guard troops stood watch outside the stadium.

Not all African Americans were detained. Hundreds and perhaps thousands fled the city. Others found refuge in private homes and downtown churches, including First Presbyterian Church and Holy Family Cathedral. A few seem to have managed to stay in Greenwood throughout its destruction.

And, of course, some were killed or so badly wounded they required hospitalization.

Detainees vouched for by a white person were released. Others were moved to an exhibit hall at the fairgrounds, then in the vicinity of Admiral Place and Lewis Avenue.

By Thursday evening, June 2, about 1,000 of the 5,500 or so originally taken into custody remained at the camp.

Those released from custody were generally given paper identification cards to wear on their clothing so they would not be arrested.

The fairgrounds camp remained in operation until late June.

Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel


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