Trump's media critics often mention the fact that Tulsa is the site of one of America's worst race riots. Indeed, on June 1, 1921, white rioters rampaged through Tulsa's Greenwood District, an affluent African American neighborhood, and destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes and businesses. Between 100 and 300 people were killed, and 6,000 African Americans were interned by law enforcement authorities. The Tulsa race massacre may, in fact, have been the worst race riot in American history.
Trump's media enemies insinuate that Trump picked Tulsa for his first post-coronavirus rally because he is a racist, and he finds Tulsa's history of racist violence appealing. But to say such a thing, or even to imply it, is a slander on Tulsa, one of MidAmerica's most charming and lovely cities.
Tulsa was transformed during eastern Oklahoma's oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s, which brought enormous wealth to the city and a construction boom. As anyone knows who has visited Tulsa, the city is the home of an extensive collection of Art Deco buildings. It is truly a museum of early twentieth-century architecture.
Oil wealth also made possible the establishment of two nationally acclaimed museums: The Philbrook and the Gilcrease. The Philbrook Museum is located in what was once the home of oil magnate Waite Phillip and his wife Genevieve and contains an impressive and eclectic collection of art.
The Gilcrease Museum houses perhaps the world's most extensive collection of western American art. Thomas Gilcrease, another oil magnate, donated his own art collection to form the foundation of the museum's treasurers. Born of a mixed-race family (Scotch-Irish, French, and Creek), Gilcrease was enrolled in the Creek tribe when he was nine years old.
And Tulsa has other cultural treasures. The Bob Dylan papers and the Woodie Guthrie papers are housed in the city. Both collections were purchased by the George Kaiser Foundation.
Over the years, Tulsa has been the home of countless famous actors, sports figures, and musicians. Tony Randall--part of The Odd Couple, is from Tulsa, along with Time Blake Nelson, the actor, screenwriter, and movie director.
Tim Blake Nelson deserves special mention. He is best know for his role in Brother Where Art Thou, but he also directed The Grey Zone, perhaps the best movie ever made about the Holocaust.
Before closing my paean to Tulsa, I must also mention that Tulsa is the home of Cain's Ballroom, where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys performed both live and on the radio during the 1930s. Cain's Ballroom helped popularize a new form of American music that blended classic swing with western themes and melodies. Even today, Cain's Ballroom is known as the Carnegie Hall of western swing.
Why am I going on so long about Tulsa? Perhaps it is because I grew up in rural Oklahoma and always considered Tulsa as Oklahoma's most beautiful, gracious, and culturally rich city. I still feel that way. So--whatever happens tonight at the Trump rally, please don't let the evening's events tarnish one of the great cities of America's flyover country.
|Bob Wills and Texas Playboys performed in Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma.