About 35 square blocks were destroyed in no more than 12 hours. The June 1, 1921, Tulsa Tribune reported only a few houses, in the vicinity of Booker T. Washington High School, escaped destruction.
A brick building surrounded by a school yard, Washington became “haven to ten or twenty (N)egro women and their families,” the paper reported.
According to the June 2, 1921, Tulsa World, officials believed about 25 separate fires had been set.
“Greenwood avenue, principal business street in the negro district, is a mass of broken bricks and debris,” the World reported. “Only gas and water pipes, bath fixtures, bedsteads or other metal fixtures remain to mark the places where homes once stood. The negro residences remaining can almost be counted on one’s hand. There is not an undamaged business building owned by negroes in the entire district.”
Property losses were estimated at around $2 million, but that figure is probably low; those doing the estimating were also trying to buy out the owners.
Claims and lawsuits filed later against the city and insurance companies suggest the real figure may have been twice that.
— Stories by Randy Krehbiel