The Tulsa Race Riots of 1921

The Tulsa Race Riots have been studied very little in schools and history books. In fact, the city tried to cover up the massacre by removing it from newspaper articles and state militia archives. As a citizen of Tulsa, I never talked about it in school. This could be the reason why the Tulsa Race Riots archive presents an unbalanced majority of primary sources such as photographs and court cases along with links to websites that lead to other information and videos instead of explaining the layout first similar to other archives I compared with. It is possible that the author of the archive wanted the audience to develop their own opinion and thoughts through the information found piece by piece rather than tell the story of the riots. 

The Tulsa Race Riots archive presents the right ideas with the criteria they involve. However, it could improve the way it navigates and unveils more information through the collection instead of predominantly showcasing the 300 electronic copies of primary sources. For example, the “About This Collection” is a small introduction to the darkest episode of racial violence in history. The short summary does not do the archive justice because it does not provide enough detail into the massacre and why the collection is important. If you scroll deeper to the bottom of the web page, you do find the links attached that provide much more insight and allow the audience to understand the terrible massacre on a more profound level. The audience is able to understand how important and truly significant the Tulsa Race Riots are to Oklahoma and American History. The design of the archive goes along with the navigation because they either help each other or bring down the archive. The archive has a design that looks like a prairie in a way where there is not much going on other than the collection. If all of the materials were sorted into more specific groups, it would give the audience of the archive a better opportunity to understand the purpose of every documented material and connect that information to the rest of the archive.

The Tulsa Race Riots Archive promotes one of the most cruel occurrences in history through the acute summary of the historic district in which the riots took place. The archive holds highlighted documents that are reliable sources because they are primary sources from the Oklahoma State Archives. They could not be fabricated and they unveil the true events of what happened the night of May 31st and June 1st of 1921. The best example and one of the highlighted pieces of the collection are the telegrams between the National Guard’s office and the Tulsa chief police on the night that the riots began and allows the events to be unfolded as they are read. The declaration of Governor Robertson’s Martial Law is included in the collection and is important because the law demanded all citizens remain in their homes to restore peace and order in the city and county. There are more highlighted pieces in the collection along with affidavits, court notes, federal case reports and more documents that can be difficult to follow but the transcription provided helps uncover the story of every detail that took place during May 31 and June 1 of 1921. 

The telegrams and letters are the most significant materials included in the archive because they offer a way to travel back in time and read the words people spoke and thought through this tragic event. Many of these people were authority figures calling others in counties that are hours away for more aid and back up authority. This was a terrible event that sprung up and overtook the authorities to gain back control of the forceful situation. The affidavits in the collection could possibly be overlooked due to the fact that they are difficult to comprehend and understand the true importance at times. This negatively affects the archive’s story because there are so many affidavits included in the collection and they are not sorted by relevance. While the amount that is included is large, there is no offensive material involved with the archive. 

The author of the archive as a whole is the main voice. There are also other voices, and they are the authors of the links attached to the archive. The authors of the websites that promote more information of the event including time, place and people that made a difference. There are a few podcasts with survivors of the riot and their voices are heard so vividly but they are not directly highlighted in the archive. The most important voices are those that screamed for help on the night of this riot and the ones who called to others. Those people who lived this tragic event. The voices in the archive represent the larger than social and cultural context. The websites provide depth on how it impacted the people who lived in and were an active part of their community, the Greenwood District. The archive completes an average job to memorialize those that lost their lives and the lives of loved ones. The average job is not the author’s of the archives fault. It is the fact that the number is unknown so how can you truly memorialize all those that fell victim to the riots when they are nameless. It is strange to think that this grievous event occurred almost a century ago and it is an unknown fact to this day. 

The archive communicates the majority of the material in a way that explains the collection and jumps right into the images that provide the purpose of the collection. The way the archive communicates it’s material to the audience is accurate enough but this is not good enough. The materials in the archive can be overwhelming and while they are not separated into more relevant topics, it does make it challenging to mentally digest. The most interesting pieces from the collection are explained in detail but they are not easy to find as you search through the collection. The archive displays the rest of the information about each document in a difficult way making it hard to find for the audience. For example, there are podcasts that are involved in the archive but it is not communicated well. In order to find these you have to sift your way through each website that is linked at the bottom of the archive’s home page. This is not only for the podcasts, it also goes along with the video and photographs of victims and people volunteering to help rebuild their beloved city. The archive can improve its communication by making the materials of the archive known and easily accessible to the audience. 

The archive stands against this criteria in a mediocre fashion. It does the basics with the collection and links to further information on the Tulsa Race Riots. Although it does not excel in communication, design, organization and content, the archive can communicate in a more efficient way if the design was improved upon. This would lead to better organization and therefore the communication would upgrade exponentially. The archive does involve good content, but if there was a better balance throughout such as, more background on the documents provided it would be enhanced. To recap, the archive does a fine job with the basic criteria but it can most definitely improve with details and accessibility. The purpose of this archive was to share testimonies that unveiled the story of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 to an audience that was interested in reading the first-hand accounts. The purpose was achieved with the archive.