‘The Tulsa Riot’ by Commander, Tulsa Post, African Blood Brotherhood from The Crusader. Vol. 4 No. 5. July, 1921.

The razing, murder, burning, theft, and rape by white mobs that engulfed Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 resulted in untold deaths has correctly been called a racist pogrom; and one the most barbaric. But it was a pogrom met by a powerful, organized, and dogged resistance which inflicted enormous, and hidden, casualties among the pogromists. Largely led by the African Blood Brotherhood, this extraordinary report by the Commander, and combatant, of the Tulsa A.B.B. details that determined, heroic defiance, and serves of a stark refutation of the always false myth of Black passivity in the face of such assaults. Black resistance was as much of the history, though rarely centered, not just of Tulsa but of many others crimes in this blood-stained country. A unique document which adds an essential element to our understanding of that event.

‘The Tulsa Riot’ by Commander, Tulsa Post, African Blood Brotherhood from The Crusader. Vol. 4 No. 5. July, 1921.

Tulsa Post. A.B.B., Accused of “Fomenting and Directing Riot. Herewith Presents a Statement. Supreme Council, A.B.B., New York, N.Y.


I am not a literary man, and my report will be most badly written. However, you have asked it and it is my duty to give it.

Most everyone knows by this time the origin of the Tulsa trouble. that the incident of a colored man named Dick Rowland, stumbling into an elevator and taking hold of the arm of the girl operator to save himself, played up by the white press as an assault by a Negro on a white woman, and seized by white men who had long been enviously eyeing the oil lands owned by Negroes and used as a pretext by these men to incite white rowdies and loafers to attempt the lynching of the colored man was what started the whole thing.

When the white mob formed around the court house where Dick Rowland was confined. With the avowed purpose of lynching the Negro prisoner, a brutal challenge was thrown right into the face of the Negro population of Tulsa. And Tulsa Negroes took up the gage! A body of twenty-five colored men moved to the court house to protect Rowland and to uphold “law and order.” They were first persuaded to go away. but as the whites continued to gather with loud-mouthed threats of what they were going to do to Rowland and the Negroes generally, the colored men returned, better armed and reinforced too the number of seventy-five. The two sides stayed there glaring at each other for a long, time. The whites were in the majority, but the Negroes were better armed and they dared not attack. However, about midnight, a new crowd of whites came up yelling “bring the rope” and “get the d—n***r.” Armed mobs of whites now broke into hardware stores and pawnshops, taking weapons and ammunition. An armed white man attempted to do police duty on his own hook and started to disarm a Negro. A pitched battle broke out and after a while the whites were forced to retreat. The white who precipitated the fighting was the first to get killed.

Later, the whites returned in large numbers and the colored men were forced to fall hack, taking up a strong position on the Frisco tracks.

The Tulsa police now took a hand, siding openly with the white mob, and directing of their attacks on the Nego lines. Deputies were sworn in, drawn exclusively from the ranks of the whites. Most of the white mob were now duty sworn to uphold the law. Every prisoner rounded up by these queer deputies happened to be colored!

Failing to drive the Negro fighters from their positions, the white mob and their allies, the police and the newly sworn in deputies from the ranks of the mob, resorted to underhand and barbarous warfare on women and children, attempting to fire the Negro residences, churches, hospitals and day nurseries, but failing in this until aeroplanes came up and dropped incendiary bombs upon the Negro district, venting the spleen of white defeat upon defenseless women and children, and helpless aged and sick, bedridden people.

It has been reported by the capitalist press that the white firemen were driven off by the mob and prevented from putting out the fire in the Negro district. This is a lie. No shots were fired at the firemen, for the latter made no attempt to fight the flames in the Negro district, but rather took up a position midway between the Negro and the white districts that would enable them to fight the spread of the flames to the white district. However, in spite of their best efforts along this plan, several buildings were destroyed in the white section.

The white mob and their police allies failihg to dislodge the Negro fighters, the white militia was called out. Upon their arrival on the scene, they instantly directed their attacks upon the Negroes, and acted in the capacity of a vanguard for the howling white mobs who greeted their appearance with glee, and confidently lined up behind them for the assault upon the embattled Negroes. But not even the militia reinforcements to our enemies proved able to drive out the Negro fighters until their bombing aeroplanes began circling above the Negro lines and dropping bombs upon them. These aeroplanes were the ones that dropped incendiary bombs upon the Negro section and started the fire that wiped it out. They are supplied to have been operated by the military.

The whites claim that our dead were greater than their’s. But the truth is that their casualty list- losses suffered in battle- is a far longer list than ours. The greater part of the Negro losses came from the burning to death in their beds of helpless people who were either too sick or too old or decrepit to make their escape when their houses were fired. Many innocent little children, some of them mere babes at their  mother’ breasts were destroyed in this way. But on the battle line the story was a different one.

There the losses of the white attackers were so great that to cover up, their losses they have been burying their dead at night, lest Negroes should know the extent of the blow inflicted upon the ephemeral thing they call “white prestige,” and should be thus emboldened lo defend themselves against every attack upon them. The Negro fighters early took up rood positions inside and behind railroad cars, and in hastily dug trenches, etc., etc. and were under cover most of the time. The whites, on the contrary, were attacking in the open and in idiotic mass formation until the little steel bullets sent tripping on their errand of death by determined Negro hands decided them that killing Negroes wasn’t such a pleasant and easy job after all. They sought cover later, and did not dare to come against the Negro lines until the appearance of the militia put new courage into them.

In the meantime, however, many scores of them were sent on the long journey. Eventually in the attacks on the Negro church held by a handful of ex-soldiers- fifty to be exact- were they badly mauled and punished. Five times they came against it in mass formation, and five times were they repelled with deadly loss. However, what they had not valor enough to accomplish by force, they treacherously achieved. Under cover of a white flag of truce, several of them sneaked forward and set fire to the sacred building. As the fate of the church was recognized, the Negro heroes who had given such a good account of themselves and had held it to valiantly determined not to die like rats in a holt, and. taking up their few wounded comrades, intrepidly charged through the mocking foe, suffering severely, but nevertheless breaking through the enemy line to safety. Ten heroes were left behind, however, stricken to death. Upon these the white barbarians vented their wrath by further riddling their bodies, and kicking the lifeless clay after they felt sure that no spark of those heroic lives remained.

Certainly, the Negro heroes who fought to the death at Tulsa, in defence of Negro honor and manhood and the helpless women and children behind the lines, have gained Valhalla and have been recognized fit inmates for whatever Paradise exists upon the other side.

As to the accusation that the Tulsa Post of the African Blood Brotherhood “fomented and directed the Tulsa riot, the lint part is a lie, and whether we directed Negros in their fight in self-defence is certainly no crime in Negro eye, and is left for the white Oklahoma authorities to prove. For ourselves, we neither deny it nor affirm it.

(Signed) Name deleted.

The Crusader was published in New York City between 1918 and 1922, becoming the paper of the The African Blood Brotherhood for African Liberation and Redemption and the earliest Black Communist publication in the US. Founded by Cyril V Briggs, who had arrived to the city from the Caribbean in 1905, at first it was the journal of the Hamitic League of the World, a Pan-African group led by George Well Parker. Increasingly in sympathy with the Russian Revolution and new Communist International, in October 1919 the paper announced the African Blood Brotherhood and its adherence to Marxism. In June 1921, The Crusader officially became the journal of the ABB and the Black publication of the US Communist movement. Antipathy with Marcus Garvey’s movement led the Communist Party, at the insistence of Claude McKay, to withdraw support and Its last issue was in January, 1922. The African Blood Brotherhood with dissolve into the Workers Party of America with many activists joining the American Negro Labor Congress. in 1925.PDF of full Issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/crusader/v4n05-jul-1921-crusader-r.pdf

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