Tower of Reconciliation and Healing Walkway
“Oklahoma - 1541 to the Present”
—Sculpture by Ed Dwight —
"Lifting as we climb-The eternal verities shall prevail"
~ B.C. Franklin ~
We have been here for more than four hundred years.
We have been called many things; Africans called Natives,
Citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes, and Slaves.
In the sixteenth century we walked alongside the Spanish
as they searched for the lost cities of gold.
In 1719, we accompanied the French up the Arkansas River,
bringing trade goods to the Osage and the Wichita.
When the Americans came, were were among them.
We rode with Thomas Nuttall in 1819, and with Major Long in 1820.
When Washington Irving visited in 1832, we were already here to meet him.
We were scouts and interpreters, explorers and runaways,
women and men, infants and children, slave and free.
We sat down beside the campfires of the Caddo and the Pawnee, drank the
pure waters of the creeks and rivers, and felt the prairie wind in our faces.
With Africa in our blood, we built new lives in the land of the blackjack and
the tallgrass, the eagle and the buffalo, of Wah'Kon-Tah
and the skies that never end. We have been here for
We were Oklahomans
before there was an Oklahoma.
"On the following day, wild and sudden
gusts of wind on the river were making our
advance dangerous. after persevering till about
noon, we paddled to the left shore of a thriving
Cherokee settlement ... None of the family spoke
either French or English, with the exception of a
Negro slave girl, who acted as our interpreter."
Charles Joseph LaTrobe
"The Rambler in North America"
The Trail of Tears was our trail, too.
From North Carolina and Tennessee,
Alabama and Georgia, Mississippi and Florida,
we came, walking a thousand miles
through summer heat and winter wind.
Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole,
brothers and sisters, slave and free.
Many of us fought slavery in every way possible
When they told us we must not learn to read,
We ran away when we could, hiding in the woods and river bottoms,
and held secret prayer meetings when we could.
And in 1842, near Webbers Falls,
we launched one of the largest slave revolts in all of American history.
The White Man's Civil War was also a Civil War within the Indian Nations.
When war came, slave and slaveholders chose sides, pitting brother against brother.
The Union victories at Honey Springs and Cabin Creek, in July
of 1863, led to the enforcement of the Cherokee Emancipation Proclamation,
freeing slaves long before the December 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment.
When freedom finally came, it came not as a gift.
We had freed ourselves.
It was said of the troops which were to become
the 79th and 83rd U.S. Colored Infantry,
both slave and slaveholder,
"They fought like veterans, and preserved their line
unbroken throughout the engagement.
Their coolness and bravery I have never seen
surpassed: they were in the hottest of the fight,
and opposed Texas troops twice their number,
whom they completely routed."
Major General James G. Blunt
July 17, 1863
When the Old West was new, you found us everywhere.
We were Buffalo Soldiers and cattle punchers, rodeo legends and
frontier lawmen. One out of every three cowboys who drove the herds
of cattle up the trail from Texas was either African American or Hispanic.
We came to Oklahoma from all across the country, thousands of us ...
on foot, in wagons, or on horseback. Making the Run of '89, staking out
farms and ranches, building new lives. Nor was that all.
By 1907, when Oklahoma became a state, we had established more than
two dozen all-black towns. At Langston, we founded a university.
And here, in Tulsa, we built an African American multiracial community
like no other, with two newspapers and more than a half dozen hotels,
two theaters and fifteen churches, dozens of restaurants and grocery stores,
even a Madame C.J. Walker Beauty School.
Out of grit and hard work, brick and mortar, we built our own piece of the
We called it Greenwood.
Greenwood was something else!
We had clothing stores, shoe stores, hotels,
and all kinds of businesses on Greenwood then.
Oh, black Tulsa always had a abundance of hotels.
First, there was O.W. Gurley's hotel and then
A. Huff's hotel, and the Philips, Titus,
Morgan, Carr, and Sanders families
which had hotels. There was the Stradford
Hotel at 301 North Greenwood.
We had ladies' dress shops, hat shops,
and shoe shops. Blacks had some nice houses, too."
Early Greenwood resident.
From Eddie Faye Gates' "They Came Searching"
But storm clouds were gathering.
In 1907, the Indian Nations were dissolved into the State of Oklahoma with segregation
as the first law of the land. Suddenly, Jim Crow declared our world to be Black and White.
In 1910, the state legislature barred us from voting. By 1920, more than two dozen African
Americans had been lynched by white mobs across Oklahoma. But none in Tulsa.
Then, on May 31, 1921, an African American teenager, Dick Rowland, was accused of
assaulting a white woman, Sarah Page. An angry mob of whites soon formed to lynch
veterans went downtown in order to protect Rowland and prevent the lynching from
happening. But when a scuffle broke out and a shot was fired, the white mob turned its
wrath against all of us and against Greenwood. Tulsa's darkest hour had begun.
The violence was unprecedented. Given a free hand--and guns--by the local authorities,
white rioters attacked us on the streets and in our homes, and lit the first fires along the
edges of Greenwood. We fought back, with guns and determination, and defended our
homes and businesses, families and churches. But when dawn broke on the morning of
June 1, 1921, thousands of whites, some armed with machine guns, gathered to invade
Greenwood. We were simply outnumbered and outgunned.
Block by block, the tidal of terror came, as armed whites broke into and looted our
homes and businesses. They then set them on fire. The police and National Guard,
meanwhile, rather than trying to stop the white rioters, instead arrested us.
By the end of the day, whites had burned down more than one thousand of our homes
and businesses, and more than fifteen of our churches. And while we were held
under armed guard, our dead were buried in unmarked graves.
Greenwood, it seemed, was gone.
'Get out of that street with that
child or you will both be killed.'
I felt it was suicide to remain in the building,
for it would surely be destroyed and death in the
street was preferred, for we expected to be
shot down at any moment. So we placed our
trust in God, our Heavenly Father, who seeth
and knoweth all things, and ran out in Greenwood
in the hope of reaching a friend's home."
Mary E. Jones Parrish
Journalist and Riot Survivor
"Events of the Tulsa Disaster"
We mourned our dead, helped each other, and got back to work. When the city
fathers tried to use the fire ordinances to keep us from rebuilding, lawyers B.C. Franklin,
P.A. Chappelle, and I.H. Spears beat them in court. And brick by brick, block by block,
Greenwood rose again. Out of the ashes of intolerance and fires of hatred
came new homes and businesses, schools and churches like Mt. Zion and Vernon A.M.E.
Out of the horrors of 1921 came renewed strength and pride, grit and determination.
New decades would bring new struggles. We fought against Jim Crow laws
and lynch mobs, all-white juries and segregated opportunity.
became the first African American to attend the University of Oklahoma Law School.
In 1958, two years before the Greensboro sit-ins, we sat down at segregated lunch
counters in Oklahoma City, Enid and Stillwater. In the years since, we have battled
urban renewal and restrictive housing covenants, struggled to save our schools,
and fought to gain recognition and reparations for Tulsa's race riot survivors.
And in the end, we will persevere.
For this land, this Oklahoma, is our land, too. We have built its cities and worked
its farms, raised its children and fought in its wars. On its altars of freedom you will
find our blood as well. For hundreds of years, beneath its endless skies, we have lived
and worked, laughed and wept, loved and died. And as we have climbed, so have you.
Now, we must all climb together.
Erected 2010 by Concerned Citizens and Organizations, the City of Tulsa, and the Oklahoma State Legislature.
Location. 36° 9.655′ N, 95° 59.41′ W. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 321 North Detroit Avenue, Tulsa OK 74103, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (within shouting distance of this marker); John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Mt. Zion Baptist Church (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Booker T. Washington High School (approx. ¼ mile away); Philtower Building (approx. 0.6 miles away); Pentane (C5H12) Molecular Model (approx. 0.7 miles away); Tulsa's Oldest House (approx. ¾ mile away); Pioneer Association Picnic Grounds 1921 Memorial (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tulsa.
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights • Disasters • Settlements & Settlers •
Credits. This page was last revised on December 18, 2017. This page originally submitted on December 18, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 96 times since then and 38 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. submitted on December 18, 2017, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.