The history of race relations in Tulsa is extensive. Events ranging from the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, which resulted in the obliteration of one of the wealthiest African-American communities in the United States at the time, to the recent controversy regarding the name of Brady Street and Wyatt “Tate” Brady’s relationship with the Ku Klux Klan, have profoundly marked the history of Tulsa. Although it was a dark time in our city’s history, the University of Tulsa’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives, in its mission to be the most effective and efficient research tool it can be, holds a wide variety of materials related to Tulsa’s racial struggles.
Among our holdings, our patrons can find the Ku Klux Klan Papers, consisting of two major accessions: a ledger containing membership records for the Tulsa Klan chapter for the years 1928-1932 and ephemera which includes: pamphlets pertaining to the organization, structure, and rituals of the Klan; typescript and carbon copy typescript of an acceptance speech given by a newly elected Exalted Cyclops [i.e., Chief Officer] for the Klan #2, Realm of Oklahoma (c1936); membership applications; robe and supply requisitions; and mimeograph copies of eleven official Ku Klux Klan documents dating from 1924-1927; sheet music for the song “The Bright Fiery Cross,” and materials relating to the Robert D. Hudson Chapter of the Inns of Court’s 17 January 1995 meeting.
Another piece of the KKK’s history in Tulsa is an undated Alvin C. Krupnick photograph of a Klan rally. Believed to be from some time in the 1920s, it shows a group of horse-mounted Klansmen, riding in a nighttime parade. A number of unrobed, unidentified men are also visible in the image. Although badly damaged, the image shows a common occurrence in the South of the 1920s, and gives viewers a glimpse into a dark but very important part of the past.