GREENWOOD IN FLAMES

The heaviest fighting occurred along the Frisco railroad tracks. From midnight until 1:30 a.m., scores-perhaps hundreds--of whites and blacks were exchanging gunfire across the tracks. At one point during the fighting, an inbound train arrived, its passengers forced to take cover on the floor.

A few carloads of whites also made "drive-by" shootings in black neighborhoods, firing indiscriminately into African American residences.

There were also more deliberate murders. When a group of white rioters broke into one home, they found an elderly black couple inside. As the man and woman knelt in prayer, the whites shot them both in the back of the head.

By 1 a.m., whites had also set the first fires in black neighborhoods. African American homes and businesses along Archer were the first targets, and when a crew from the Tulsa Fire Department prepared to douse the flames, rioters waved them off at gunpoint. By 4 a.m., more than two dozen homes and businesses, including the Mayo Hotel, had been put to the torch.


The pre-dawn hours of June 1st also witnessed the first organized actions by Tulsa's National Guard units. While perhaps as many as fifty guardsmen had gathered at the Armory by Il p.m., it was not until after midnight that the local commander received official authorization to call out his men to assist the civil authorities. Initially, the local guardsmen, all of whom were white, deployed downtown. One detachment blocked off Second Street in front of Police Headquarters, while others led groups of armed whites on "patrols" of the business district. Police officials also presented the guardsmen with a machine gun, which Guard officers had mounted on the back of the truck. This particular gun, as it turned out, was in poor condition, and could only be fired one shot at a time.


Taking the machine gun with them, about thirty guardsmen positioned themselves along Detroit Avenue between Brady Street and Standpipe Hill. There, they set up a "skirmish line" facing the African American district. They also began rounding up black civilians, whom they handed over--as prisoners--to the police. Guardsmen also briefly exchanged gunfire with gunmen to the east.


About 2:30 a.m., word spread that a trainload of armed blacks, from nearby towns, would be arriving at the Midland Valley railroad station. Guardsmen were rushed to the depot, but the rumor proved false.


A half hour later, reports reached Guard officers that white residences on Sunset Hill were being fired upon, resulting in the death of a white woman. Guardsmen, with the machine gun, were then deployed along the crest of Sunset Hill. They were still there when dawn brought an end to Tulsa's longest night--and ushered in its longest day.
 

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THE DESTRUCTION OF GREENWOOD