In 1921, a 19-year-old black shoe-shiner named Dick Rowland was arrested after an incident in which it appears he tripped and grabbed the hand of a white female lift attendant. A large crowd of white men gathered outside the Tulsa jail where he was held, prompting rumours of a lynching which brought a group of armed African Americans to the scene. Shots were fired and the black minority retreated while an estimated 500 white men were sworn-in as Special Deputies.

Sporadic fighting took place during the night, followed by a dawn assault on the city’s thriving Greenwood commercial district, where dozens of black-owned businesses lay among handsome one, two and three-storey red brick buildings.

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