National Archives at Kansas City

The Night Tulsa Burned Screening

Press Release: March 30, 2016

National Archives to Offer Screening of The Night Tulsa Burned

Presented within the 20th Century Civil Rights and Liberties Film Series

For More Information Contact:
Kimberlee Ried, 816-268-8072

Kansas City (MO)…On Thursday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m., the National Archives at Kansas City will screen the documentary The Night Tulsa Burned. Post-film discussion will be led by Dr. Shawn Alexander of the University of Kansas. A free light reception will precede the film at 6:00 p.m.

Tulsa's Greenwood district is the site of one of the most devastating race disturbances in the history of the United States. Before May 31, 1921, Tulsa's black business district known as Greenwood flourished in spite of segregation. It boasted of several restaurants, theaters, clothing shops and hotels. Dubbed the "Black Wall Street," Greenwood was an economic powerhouse. After May 31, 1921, Greenwood would never be the same. The tension mounted between the black and white communities over an incident that allegedly occurred in an elevator at Drexel building in downtown Tulsa involving Sarah Page, a 17-year-old white elevator operator, and Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old black man. There are several versions of what supposedly transpired, but the most common being that Dick Rowland accidentally stepped on Page's foot in the elevator, throwing her off balance. When Rowland reached out to keep her from falling, she screamed. Many Tulsans came to believe through media reports that Rowland attacked Page although no sufficient evidence surfaced to substantiate the claim. The incident was further escalated by a local newspaper headline that encouraged the public to "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator." The strained relationship between the white and black communities, the heightened jealousy of the success of the Black Wall Street area and the elevator encounter led to the Tulsa Race Riot. Armed white men looted, burned and destroyed the black community. When the smoke cleared, mere shells of buildings were all that remained of the business district. The Red Cross estimates that more than 300 people were killed and approximately 1,200 homes were destroyed. This program is part of a series presented in partnership with the Greater Kansas City Black History Study Group.

Reservations are requested for this free film by calling 816-268-8010 or emailing kansascity.educate@nara.gov. Requests for ADA accommodations must be submitted five business days prior to events.

The National Archives at Kansas City is home to historical records dating from the 1820s to the 1990s created or received by Federal agencies in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. For more information, call 816-268-8000 or visit us online.

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LPM/LE-KC 16-08

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