The Department of Special Collections has a collection of many photographs related to the Tulsa race riot, which occurred 31 May-1 June 1921. A small exhibit of these can be found online.
Many of these remain under copyright, even though the identity of the photographer is not currently known. We have tried to identify the photographers wherever possible, and when we don’t own the original, who owns an original copy.
Unfortunately, none of the negatives to the race riot photographs have survived, and so all the known images are from private collections or from the publications, generally newspapers, of the period.
The photograph acquisitions that currently make up this collection are:
- 0000.001 “65” print batch, unidentified Tulsa race riot photos. 8 photographic prints, a “65” printed on the back, indicating that they are from the same print batch (and therefore likely the same roll of film). 4×3 ratio. These photos are of African-Americans being rounded up and detained at McNulty Park. There is nothing known of the photographs’ provenance.
- 0000.002 “32” print batch, unidentified Tulsa race riot photos. 5 photographic prints, a “32” printed on the back, indicating that they are from the same print batch (and therefore likely the same roll of film). 5×3 ratio. These photos are of the aftermath of the riot. There is nothing known of the photographs’ provenance.
- 0000.003 Unidentified African-American photo batch (Tulsa race riot?). 5 photographic prints. 4.5×3 ratio. These photos are of African-Americans, possibly prior to the riot. One of the men depicted has been identified as being James T. A. West, an instructor at Booker T. Washington High School, in the Greenwood District. There is nothing known of the photographs’ provenance.
- 0000.005 Leon and Maxine Wiandt photographs. 26 photos, collected by Leon Wiandt, of Tulsa. After his death, Maxine Wiandt sold them to author and race riot historian Alfred Brophy, who donated them Special Collections. At least one of the photographers has been identified as Earl A. Trager, a geologist in Tulsa at the time of the riot.
- 1979.017 F. A. Schmidt scrapbooks. 11 images taken by or collected by F. A. Schmidt, football coach at Henry Kendall College. His scrapbooks of the time he spent in Tulsa were donated to Special Collections in 1979.
- 1988.016 Tulsa race riot postcards. 15 postcards made for sale or distribution as souvenirs after the race riot. Because at least one of these images has clearly been adapted from a known photographer’s work, it is surmised that the same business that printed pictures from the negatives kept them and used them to make the postcards. Although TU does not own any copies of these, it should be noted that a later run of the postcards was also made in the 1940s, which was determined by a study of the photographic processes used. The donor of these requested anonymity.
- 1991.009 Tulsa race riot photos (November 1991). 32 8×10 prints reproducing images owned by other institutions. In some cases the institution holding the original item has been identified, and those are noted on the finding aid. The donor of these requested anonymity.
- 2010.076 Sarah Blackwood photographs. 4 photos recently acquired, taken by James Sidney Swinney, who was living in Haskell, Oklahoma at the time of the riot.
Since many of the originals are simple contact print copies, the image area ratio and the film size can aid in identifying the sort of camera used to take the picture.
One of our staff members has been developing the electronic exhibit Tulsa race riot photographs, specifically showing those images that are definitely in the public domain. This is not an official TU website, but is worth looking at as well.