The Mysterious Wall Street Bombing, 95 Years Ago

The Mysterious Wall Street Bombing, 95 Years Ago

If Lower Manhattan’s Financial District was the center of American capitalism in the 1920s, then the southeast corner of Wall and Broad Streets was its most important junction. It was dominated by the headquarters of J.P. Morgan and Co., a financial leviathan that had come out of World War I as the most influential banking institution on the globe. Across the street stood the U.S. Sub-Treasury and the Assay Office. The bustling New York Stock Exchange was located just down the road.

Rain was in the forecast for September 16, 1920, but as the bells of nearby Trinity Church rang in the noonday hour, “the Corner” was its usual hive of activity. Bank clerks and stockbrokers swarmed around the building fronts, and the streets were clogged with automobiles and messenger boys. Few in the lunchtime crowd paid any notice to the battered horse-drawn wagon parked in front of the Assay Office, nor the driver that had anxiously dropped the reigns and hurried off down the street.

The final ring of the church bells was still hanging in the air at 12:01, when the 100 pounds of dynamite concealed in the wagon detonated with an ear-splitting roar. “That was the loudest noise I ever heard in my life,” J.P. Morgan employee Andrew Dunn later remembered. “It was enough to knock you out by itself.” The blast derailed a streetcar a block over and sent debris soaring as high as the 34th floor of the nearby Equitable building. Pieces of the wagon’s ill-fated horse landed hundreds of yards away. Stockbroker Joseph P. Kennedy, father of future President John F. Kennedy, was lifted clear off his feet by the concussion, as were many others.

Those closer to the wagon were consumed in pillars of flame or cut to pieces by the hundreds of pounds of metal fragments—most likely iron sash weights—that had been cruelly piled on top of the bomb to act as shrapnel. “I saw the explosion, a column of smoke shoot up into the air and then saw people dropping all around me, some of them with their clothing afire,” a witness later told the New York Sun. Next came a rain of glass from shattered windows, which drenched the streets and nearby offices. The inside of the Morgan building was raked by debris. One piece crushed the skull of 24-year-old clerk William Joyce as he sat at his desk.

To the many World War I veterans on hand, the devastation at ground zero was eerily reminiscent of a battlefield. Wall Street was rendered a no man’s land of spattered blood, broken glass and charred bodies. The air was thick with smoke and soot, and severed limbs littered the ground. “Almost in front of the steps leading up to the Morgan bank was the mutilated body of a man,” wrote reporter George Weston, who had escaped injury by ducking into a doorway. “Other bodies, most of them silent in death, lay nearby. As I gazed horror stricken at the site, one of these forms, half-naked and seared with burns, started to rise. It struggled, then toppled and fell lifeless into the gutter.”

Trading at the Stock Exchange ground to a halt, and some 2,000 New York City policemen and Red Cross nurses converged on Wall Street to comb through the wreckage. The initial explosion had killed 30 men and women, and another eight would later die from their wounds. Hundreds more were injured, many of them burned or maimed by flying glass and shrapnel.

The attack would remain the deadliest terrorist incident on U.S. soil until the Oklahoma City bombing 75 years later, yet investigators initially struggled to explain who had carried it out or why. The obvious target was the Morgan bank, which some critics claimed had profited off the horrors of World War I, but most of the wagon bomb’s victims were lowly stenographers and clerks—not wealthy businessmen. J.P. Morgan, Jr. himself had been thousands of miles away in Europe when the dynamite went off. “There was no objective except general terrorism,” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The bomb was not directed against any particular person or property. It was directed against a public, anyone who happened to be near or any property in the neighborhood.”

With the first Red Scare still in full swing, most of the finger pointing soon centered on anti-capitalist communist and anarchist groups, which had been blamed for dozens of other bombings dating back to the 19th century. Suspicions only grew on September 17, when postal workers found a stack of flyers that had been dropped in Financial District mailboxes just minutes before the blast. “Remember,” they read, “we will not tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners, or it will be sure death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters.” The letters bore a striking resemblance to those circulated after an earlier terror campaign from June 1919, when bombs went off in several U.S. cities. Police had since credited that plot to the Galleanists, a gang of anti-government Italian anarchists led by a rousing orator and explosives guru named Luigi Galleani. Galleani had been deported the previous year, but many aspects of the Wall Street bomb—particularly the use of iron weights as shrapnel—matched the “infernal machines” that he and his followers had crafted in the past.

Unfortunately for the authorities, the mysterious fliers were the closest anyone ever came to claiming responsibility for the attack. Police and agents from the Bureau of Investigation (later the FBI) spent over three years trying to crack the case and identify the wagon’s driver, but the Galleanist trail went cold, as did dozens of others involving everyone from trade unionists to the American communist party and even Vladimir Lenin himself. One of the stranger dead ends concerned Edward Fischer, a mentally unstable tennis champion who had warned people to stay away from Wall Street in the days preceding the attack. Once investigators learned that Fischer had issued several previous Wall Street warnings—each one of them supposedly received “through God and the air”—they dropped him as a suspect and committed him to a psychiatric ward.

The last official inquiry into the Wall Street attack took place in 1944, when the FBI reopened the decades-old cold case and concluded the explosion was likely the work of “Italian anarchists or Italian terrorists.” Other investigators have since pointed to a Galleanist named Mario Buda as the most likely culprit. Buda was an associate of the famed anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, and he may have engineered the Wall Street attack as revenge for their September 11, 1920 indictment for murder in a robbery gone wrong. Buda fled to Italy shortly after the bombing, however, and remained there until his death. Neither he nor anyone else was ever charged with the September 16 attack.

Wall Street reopened only a day after the deadly explosion, “determined,” wrote the New York Sun, “to show the world that business will proceed as usual despite bombs.” Bandaged office clerks returned to their desks, and all signs of the blast were covered up or swept away—including many pieces of evidence that might have helped in the police investigation. That afternoon, thousands of New Yorkers descended on the scene of the disaster and joined in renditions of “America the Beautiful” and the national anthem. Looming behind them was the Morgan building, its marble edifice marred by fist-deep holes from bomb shrapnel. The scars are still visible on the building today—the lone monument to an unsolved crime that claimed 38 lives.


Bombový útok na Wall Street

Bombový útok na Wall Street se odehrál 16. září 1920 ve 12:01 na ulici Wall Street 23 ve Finančním distriktu na Manhattanu ve městě New York. Exploze zabila 38 lidí (30 zemřelo přímo na místě výbuchu). Zraněných byly stovky. Ώ]

Případ nebyl nikdy vyřešen, ačkoliv se řada historiků domnívá, že za útokem mohli stát galleanisté (skupina italských anarchistů), nicméně v podezření byli i další lidé mimo okruh těchto podezřelých. Ώ] ΐ]


The terrorist attack that changed America -- and it wasn't 9/11: "The public reaction was even worse"

By Elias Isquith
Published May 6, 2015 5:15PM (EDT)

The aftermath of the September 16, 1920 Wall Street bombing (Esemono/Wikimedia)

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Admittedly, when history geeks like myself are trying to get normals — like you, probably — interested in stories about people from a long time ago, we often try to appeal to contemporary interests. Yes, this involves a bunch of names you’ve never heard, belonging to people who are probably long-dead, we say, but it really has a lot to do with what you’re experiencing in the here and now! Sometimes, this is a defensible position many other times, however, it is not. But we try.

Here’s the thing, though: The America of the 1920s, especially during the very first year of the decade, really was eerily similar to America today! The country was recovering from a war of choice that not only led to results far less inspiring than originally promised, but caused a toxic level of division and rancor within the body politic the economy was turbulent, with new technologies and social norms wrenching an agricultural society ever-more toward the cities immigration was changing the very face of the average citizen, often in a way American nativists could not stand and terrorism was forcing a political culture built on dual loyalties to liberty and safety to engage in a precarious rebalancing. And I haven’t even mentioned the radical new role women took on both in civil society and the White House itself.

Recently, Salon spoke over the phone with Eric Burns, the award-winning media critic and former correspondent for NBC News, about his new book on the era, “1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar.” In addition to discussing the parallels between our time and that of 95 years ago, we also talked about the glaring differences — and spent a moment or two on the phenomenon of Twitter, which, Burns wanted to make clear, he did not understand. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

Why did you want to take a look at 1920 in particular?

I read a lot of American history and, like a lot of people who are interested in American history, I find the 1920s an especially interesting time. 1920 was the year of the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it was the only year in which there have been two amendments to the Constitution, Prohibition and the Women’s Vote for the entire year, we had a female president— not elected, obviously she was the de facto president, not the president de jure— because of Woodrow Wilson’s stroke. Isn't it ironic that for the entire year of 1920, the year women got the vote, there was a woman running the country? Plus, I wanted to read something about [Charles] Ponzi around the time that Bernie Madoff was making the news and Ponzi’s entire career, from being a nobody to being a multimillionaire and then being in jail, that all happened over the course of about eight months in 1920.

I found that in concentrating on that year I found a tremendous amount of interesting material, largely material people didn’t know before, but also material that pointed to the present— for instance, there were debates in 1920 about Homeland Security after this terrorist attack. So the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the perfect year. The only problem is that when you write about anything, you need a certain narrative flow, and events in a year don’t do that for an author’s benefit. I was able— and this was the difficult part— after a while, to find ways to tie some of the events together, to find connections between the events that I hadn’t seen before, to make it a story as opposed to a bunch of anecdotes.

How did that organizing process go? What did it look like? How did you arrive there?

1920 was the most revolutionary year we’ve ever had in the arts. As far as literature is concerned, it was the end of the notion that virtue is to be found in small-town America it was the publication of “Main Street.” Warren G. Harding, who was elected president that year, just struck me as a character from “Main Street,” so I pointed out that there were similarities between the fictional people that Sinclair Lewis was writing about and Warren G. Harding who was voted once, after there had been 29 presidents, the 29th-best president in the United States. There were also various connections to be made between women getting the vote and how that was interpreted by women. What I mean by that is shortly after that, they were wearing more lipstick than ever before, smoking cigarettes in public, dressing in a way that suggested that their bodies were readily available for male usage. I was able to demonstrate that the idea was just to give women the right to vote, but it in fact, empowered some women to the extent that they decided that they would enjoy all of the freedoms of men.

It was really a matter of just immersing myself in the material. As far as the terrorist attack was concerned, I didn’t really have to try to make connections there. Readers would see them and I hope that they will see that this fighting a war not with a country but with people who have an ideology, but who live in a variety of countries— well, that's happened before. I really enjoy an opportunity to point out to people that what seems new and startling, in fact, has been done before.

I’ve heard before that the world we live in now started either during World War I or in the '20s. In 1920, how large was World War I looming in the consciousness of the country?

Immensely. World War I was nonsensical, as I point out — historians are still arguing today about precisely how it got started — and yet the degree of tragedy was just appalling. Something like that was bound to linger when this terrorist attack occurred in 1920 people were more terrified than ever before because the Great War, as World War I was called then, took place abroad, but now it seemed as if maybe not only was it not over but it was going to be on American shores. So it was very much in the consciousness. It changed literature, it changed the theater, it changed all forms of art. To put it very generally, I think it inspired artists to look at the other side of reality, not the happy-go-lucky side that was represented by so many songs of the period and silly movies of the period but the lessons that the Great War taught them. Art and literature therefore became more pessimistic, although the word that was used at the time was realistic. I think it’s hard to exaggerate the effect that the Great War had, especially in 1920. Nineteen-nineteen was when the Treaty of Versailles was signed, so 1920 was actually the first year in which there was no war officially being fought.

A lot of people now associate Harding's term as president with a kind of "return to normalcy." Is that how he was seen at the time?

What Harding did was change the focus of the public eye, until the Nixon administration. The Harding administration was the most corrupt in our history. Even before the Teapot Dome scandal, there were two suicides attached to the Harding administration, both of them because of corruption. The leading bootlegger in Washington was an aide-de-camp. His name was Jess Smith, and Harry Daugherty, the attorney general, gave him an office so that he could supply the White House with booze. Harry Daugherty himself later on was tried for fraud! As you know, Nan Britton supposedly had a child by Harding. Harding never admitted it but he paid Nan Britton a check, all of her life, a monthly check, and he had an enormous reputation for that kind of thing, for womanizing.

The focus changed from the idea of normalcy to this emphasis on the Harding administration’s fraudulent behavior. It was a shift in the public consciousness from fear of terrorism to being appalled by the behavior of government. I would certainly think that the reaction to that was to deepen and give breadth to the notion that after World War I this world had changed for the worse and was never going to get better— terrorism on the one hand and corruption in our own government on the other.

Today, 9/11 is still thought of as if it were a totally new kind of experience for Americans. Was that the same response that people had back then to the Wall Street bombing, or was their response muted by the aftereffects of the Great War?

I would say it was an accelerant. The Great War caused our culture to put its collective foot down on the gas pedal and caused us to move at much greater speed in the direction we were already going.

Was there a similarly hysterical response to the bombings back then as there was in our era with regard to 9/11?

Oh yes, absolutely. 9/11 in a sense came out of nowhere— not that the world was a placid, peaceful place, but it didn’t have an immediate context like the Great War. We weren’t shivering in apprehension before this terrorist attack, before 9/11, whereas we were shivering in apprehension before the terrorist attack in 1920. So yes, I think it’s fair to say that the public reaction was even worse back then. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? It’s hard for many of us to imagine a greater horror than 9/11 because of the number of people who were killed, and certainly not nearly as many people were killed in 1920, but in terms of that fear.

Germany was already making sounds about how dissatisfied it was about the Treaty of Versailles, and the United States edgy, nervous. There hadn’t been enough time yet for the country to settle down into normalcy — Harding hadn’t even coined the word yet. It was within a year and a half of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that this explosion occurred, and that’s not nearly enough time for an entire country this size to lead a normal life again after an event like this. Back then, you were paranoid if you thought that somehow the Great War wasn’t over and it would somehow make its way across the ocean onto our shores. In this case, those who were paranoid ended up being right.

How aware were people in 1920 that the country was being governed, technically, by the wife of the president?

They weren’t. Albert Fall, who was the secretary of the interior, was first known for coining the phrase “petticoat government,” but the reason that it wasn’t known very much has to do with the fact that the American mass media didn’t exist and most newspapers did not have Washington bureaus. The whole running of the White House at that time was very secretive and it was known that the president wasn’t feeling well and so there had to be a knock-at-the-door if something was going to be presented to them. Well, no one saw Wilson lying in bed wasted away, and they didn’t see either Mrs. Wilson writing a response or her helping him holding the pen to write the response.

How do you think she did?

I think I agree with the consensus, which is that she did what he would have done. She was his confidante she was his second wife. He had talked at great length in privacy with his first wife about political matters, and got into the habit of doing that, and immediately began to indoctrinate his second wife into political matters, so she knew more than the average first lady. She knew more than Mamie Eisenhower knew about what was going on in the country and in the world. Believe it or not, 1920 was not a politically tumultuous time except for worries about the terrorist attack. It was a time when not much was happening in this country, or when what was happening already happened. I think that there really weren’t issues of such great controversy that Mrs. Wilson had to make a decision that might have gone against her husband's wishes.

After spending so much time looking at the time period and specifically this year, would you want to be alive in the country at the time?

I think I would. The first thought that comes to my mind is because literature mattered so much, so I would be very happy at a time like that. I’d be very happy in the '30s because, actually I’d forgotten the year, maybe you remember when the New Yorker began to publish--was it in the '30s?

I think so — it might have even been the late 20s.

One of the first career goals that I had, which will reveal a certain impracticality, was that I wanted to write for the New Yorker in the '30s, so you see that my chances for success were slim. What I think is troublesome about this culture is in fact the mass media, which is to me getting worse. I realize we’re finding some very viable things because of Twitter— and I don’t know what that is, or tweeting— but we’re also a society that is just enveloped in trivia, a society that cares much more about what is not relevant than what is, a society in which all of the major networks and the cable news networks have just dropped foreign coverage down to a bare minimum because there’s just isn’t enough interest. The network news bureaus used to have their biggest staffs in Washington, and now that’s not true anymore.

I think that what would appeal to me about living 95 years ago is that it was a much more artistically serious time, think of the Harlem Renaissance, and what went on there. My God! It’s just amazing what happened in Harlem back then, and now we’re a society that cares about a family named Kardashian, and I don’t know the reason. I know the guy named Kardashian was one of O.J. Simpson’s attorneys, but does that make his family famous? We were concerned about much more important matters, certainly much more important matters of art. Art mattered. The 1913 Armory Show was a revolutionary event, the first major display in the this country of what we call modern art and it was an explosive story, a front-page story. Today, I can’t think of single television show that would cover it.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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Wall Street Bombing 1920

“[It was] an unexpected, death-dealing bolt, which in a twinkling turned into a shamble the busiest corner of America’s financial center. […] Almost in front of the steps leading up to the Morgan bank was the mutilated body of a man. Other bodies, most of them silent in death, lay nearby. As I gazed horrorstruck at the sight, one of these forms, half-naked and seared with burns, started to rise. It struggled, then toppled and fell lifeless to the gutter.” George Weston, an Associated Press reporter, described what he had witnessed from the protection of a doorway.

The Sun and New York Herald

Interim Archives/Getty Images

At 12:01 pm on Thursday, September 16, 1920 a wagon filled with 100 pounds of dynamite detonated outside J. P. Morgan building during lunchtime at 23 Wall Street in Manhattan, New York City. The blast, which was the most lethal act of terrorism on U.S. soil up to that point, caused $2 million dollars in damage ($24.5 million today) and killed 38 people, while more than 300 people sustained injuries.

FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

NY ِDaily News/Getty Images

Bain News Service (Library of Congress)/Public domain

NY Daily News/Getty Images

Within one minute of the explosion, William H. Remick, president of the New York Stock Exchange, suspended trading in order to prevent a panic. Yet the following day, the stock market began its work as normal, yielding to give up against terrorism and panic.

The day after the attack, a message was found in a mailbox a block from the attack, which said:

Remember. We will not tolerate any longer. Free the political prisoners or it will be death for all of you. American Anarchist Fighters!”

Police Sketch of The Possible Attacker
IMAGE: NY Daily News/Getty Images

However, nobody claimed responsibility for the bombing and although all the investigations and police work, the true identity of the perpetrators was never found.

NY Daily News Archive/ Getty Images

New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)/Public domain

New York Daily News/NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images

The Facade of The 23 Wall Street Today
IMAGE: Alex Q. Arbuckle/Mashable


Contents

In 1921, Oklahoma had a racially, socially, and politically tense atmosphere. The territory of northern Oklahoma had been established for the resettlement of Native Americans from the southeast, some of whom had owned slaves. [26] Other areas had received many settlers from the South whose families had been slaveholders before the Civil War. Oklahoma was admitted as a state on November 16, 1907. The newly created state legislature passed racial segregation laws, commonly known as Jim Crow laws, as its first order of business. The 1907 Oklahoma Constitution did not call for strict segregation delegates feared that, should they include such restrictions, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt would veto the document. Still, the first law passed by the new legislature segregated all rail travel, and voter registration rules effectively disenfranchised most Black Americans. This meant that they were also barred from either serving on juries or serving in local public offices. These laws were enforced until they were ruled unconstitutional after the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Major cities passed laws that imposed additional restrictions. [27]

On August 4, 1916, Tulsa passed an ordinance that mandated residential segregation by forbidding either Black or White people from residing on any block where three-fourths or more of the residents were members of the other race. Although the United States Supreme Court declared such an ordinance unconstitutional the following year, Tulsa and many other cities continued to establish and enforce segregation for the next three decades. [28] [29]

Many servicemen returned to Tulsa following the end of the First World War in 1918, and as they tried to re-enter the labor force, social tensions and anti-Black sentiment both increased in cities where job competition was fierce. Northeastern Oklahoma was in an economic slump which increased the level of unemployment. The American Civil War, which ended in 1865, was still in living memory civil rights for African Americans were lacking, and the Ku Klux Klan was resurgent (primarily through the influence of the wildly popular 1915 film The Birth of a Nation). [30] Since 1915, the Ku Klux Klan had been growing in urban chapters across the country. Its first significant appearance in Oklahoma occurred on August 12, 1921. [31] By the end of 1921, 3,200 of Tulsa's 72,000 residents were Klan members according to one estimate. [31] [32] In the early 20th century, lynchings were common in Oklahoma as part of a continuing effort to assert and maintain white supremacy. [31] [33] [34] By 1921, at least 31 people, mostly men and boys, had been lynched in the newly formed state 26 were Black.

At the same time, Black veterans pushed to have their civil rights enforced, believing that they had earned full citizenship as the result of their military service. In what became known as the "Red Summer" of 1919, industrial cities across the Midwest and Northeast experienced severe race riots in which Whites attacked Black communities, sometimes with the assistance of local authorities. In Chicago and some other cities, Blacks defended themselves with force for the first time but they were often outnumbered.

As a booming oil city, Tulsa also supported a large number of affluent, educated and professional African-American people. Greenwood was a district in Tulsa that was organized in 1906 following Booker T. Washington's 1905 tour of Arkansas, Indian Territory and Oklahoma. It was a namesake of the Greenwood District which Washington had established as his own district in Tuskegee, Alabama, five years earlier. Greenwood became so prosperous that it came to be known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street"). [35] Most Black people lived together in the district. Black Americans had created their own businesses and services in this enclave, including several grocers, two newspapers, two movie theaters, nightclubs, and numerous churches. Black professionals, including doctors, dentists, lawyers, and clergy, served their peers. During his trip to Tulsa in 1905, Washington encouraged the co-operation, economic independence and excellence being demonstrated there. Greenwood residents selected their own leaders and raised capital there to support economic growth. In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, they also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom. [35]

Encounter in the elevator Edit

On May 30, 1921, 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a Black shoeshiner employed at a Main Street shine parlor, entered the only elevator of the nearby Drexel Building at 319 South Main Street to use the top-floor 'colored' restroom, which his employer had arranged for use by his Black employees. There, he encountered Sarah Page, the 17-year-old White elevator operator on duty. Whether—and to what extent—Dick Rowland and Sarah Page knew each other has long been a matter of speculation. The two likely knew each other at least by sight as Rowland would have regularly ridden in Page’s elevator on his way to and from the restroom. Others have speculated that the pair might have been interracial lovers, a dangerous and perhaps deadly taboo then. [ citation needed ] A clerk at Renberg's, a clothing store on the first floor of the Drexel, heard what sounded like a woman's scream and saw a young Black man rushing from the building. The clerk went to the elevator and found Page in a distraught state. Thinking she had been sexually assaulted, he summoned the authorities. Apart from the clerk's interpretation that Rowland attempted to rape Page, many explanations have been given for the incident, with the most common being that Dick Rowland tripped as he got onto the elevator and, as he tried to catch his fall, he grabbed onto the arm of Sarah Page, who then screamed. Others suggested that Rowland and Page had a lover’s quarrel. [36]

The 2001 Oklahoma Commission Final Report notes that it was unusual for both Rowland and Page to be working downtown on Memorial Day when most stores and businesses were closed, but has also speculated that Rowland was there because the shine parlor he worked at may have been open, to draw in some of the parade traffic, while Page had been required to work in order to transport Drexel Building employees and their families to choice parade viewing spots on the building’s upper floors. [36]

Brief investigation Edit

Although the police questioned Page, no written account of her statement has been found, but apparently, she told the police that Rowland had grabbed her arm and nothing more, and would not press charges. [37] However, the police determined that what happened between the two teenagers was something less than an assault. The authorities conducted a low-key investigation rather than launching a man-hunt for her alleged assailant. [38]

Regardless of whether assault had occurred, Rowland had reason to be fearful. At the time, such an accusation alone put him at risk for attack by angry mobs of white people. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Rowland fled to his mother's house in the Greenwood neighborhood. [39]

A suspect is arrested Edit

On the morning after the incident, Henry Carmichael, a White detective, and Henry C. Pack, a Black patrolman, located Rowland on Greenwood Avenue and detained him. Pack was one of two Black officers on the city's police force, which included about 45 officers. Rowland was initially taken to the Tulsa city jail at the corner of First Street and Main Street. Late that day, Police Commissioner J. M. Adkison said he had received an anonymous telephone call threatening Rowland's life. He ordered Rowland transferred to the more secure jail on the top floor of the Tulsa County Courthouse. [40] [41]

Rowland was well known among attorneys and other legal professionals within the city, many of whom knew him through his work as a shoeshiner. Some witnesses later recounted hearing several attorneys defend Rowland in their conversations with one another. One of the men said, "Why, I know that boy, and have known him a good while. That's not in him." [42]

Newspaper coverage Edit

The Tulsa Tribune, owned, published, and edited by Richard Lloyd Jones, and one of two White-owned papers published in Tulsa, broke the story in that afternoon's edition with the headline: "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator," describing the alleged incident. According to some witnesses, the same edition of the Tribune included an editorial warning of a potential lynching of Rowland, titled "To Lynch Negro Tonight." [43] The paper was known at the time to have a "sensationalist" style of news writing. All original copies of that issue of the paper have apparently been destroyed, and the relevant page is missing from the microfilm copy. [44] The Tulsa Race Riot Commission in 1997 offered a reward for a copy of the editorial, which went unclaimed. [44] Other newspapers of the time like The Black Dispatch and the Tulsa World did not call attention to any such editorial after the event. [44] So the exact content of the column – and whether it existed at all – remains in dispute. [44] [45] [46] [47] However, Chief of Detectives James Patton attributed the cause of the riots entirely to the newspaper account and stated, "If the facts in the story as told the police had only been printed I do not think there would have been any riot whatsoever." [37]

Stand-off at the courthouse Edit

The afternoon edition of the Tribune hit the streets shortly after 3 p.m., and soon news spread of a potential lynching. By 4 p.m., local authorities were on alert. White residents began congregating at and near the Tulsa County Courthouse. By sunset around 7:30 p.m., the several hundred White residents assembled outside the courthouse appeared to have the makings of a lynch mob. Willard M. McCullough, the newly-elected sheriff of Tulsa County, was determined to avoid events such as the 1920 lynching of White murder suspect Roy Belton in Tulsa, which had occurred during the term of his predecessor. [48] The sheriff took steps to ensure the safety of Rowland. McCullough organized his deputies into a defensive formation around Rowland, who was terrified. [ failed verification ] The Guthrie Daily Leader reported that Rowland had been taken to the county jail before crowds started to gather. [49] The sheriff positioned six of his men, armed with rifles and shotguns, on the roof of the courthouse. He disabled the building's elevator and had his remaining men barricade themselves at the top of the stairs with orders to shoot any intruders on sight. The sheriff went outside and tried to talk the crowd into going home but to no avail. According to an account by Scott Ellsworth, the sheriff was "hooted down". [50] At about 8:20 p.m., three White men entered the courthouse, demanding that Rowland be turned over to them. Although vastly outnumbered by the growing crowd out on the street, Sheriff McCullough turned the men away. [51]

A few blocks away on Greenwood Avenue, members of the Black community gathered to discuss the situation at Gurley's Hotel. [6] [7] [8] Given the recent lynching of Belton, a White man accused of murder, they believed that Rowland was greatly at risk. Many Black residents were determined to prevent the crowd from lynching Rowland, but they were divided about tactics. Young World War I veterans prepared for a battle by collecting guns and ammunition. Older, more prosperous men feared a destructive confrontation that likely would cost them dearly. [52] O. W. Gurley stated that he had tried to convince the men that there would be no lynching, but the crowd responded that Sheriff McCullough had personally told them their presence was required. [7] About 9:30 p.m., a group of approximately 50–60 Black men, armed with rifles and shotguns, arrived at the jail to support the sheriff and his deputies in defending Rowland from the mob. Corroborated by ten witnesses, attorney James Luther submitted to the grand jury that they were following the orders of Sheriff McCullough who publicly denied he gave any orders:

I saw a car full of negroes driving through the streets with guns I saw Bill McCullough and told him those negroes would cause trouble McCullough tried to talk to them, and they got out and stood in single file. W. G. Daggs was killed near Boulder and Sixth street. I was under the impression that a man with authority could have stopped and disarmed them. I saw Chief of Police on south side of court house on top step, talking I did not see any officer except the Chief I walked in the court house and met McCullough in about 15 feet of his door I told him these negroes were going to make trouble, and he said he had told them to go home he went out and told the Whites to go home, and one said "they said you told them to come up here." McCullough said "I did not" and a negro said you did tell us to come. [7] [8]

Taking up arms Edit

Having seen the armed Black men, some of the more than 1,000 Whites who had been at the courthouse went home for their own guns. Others headed for the National Guard armory at the corner of Sixth Street and Norfolk Avenue, where they planned to arm themselves. The armory contained a supply of small arms and ammunition. Major James Bell of the 180th Infantry Regiment learned of the mounting situation downtown and the possibility of a break-in, and he consequently took measures to prevent. He called the commanders of the three National Guard units in Tulsa, who ordered all the Guard members to put on their uniforms and report quickly to the armory. When a group of Whites arrived and began pulling at the grating over a window, Bell went outside to confront the crowd of 300 to 400 men. Bell told them that the Guard members inside were armed and prepared to shoot anyone who tried to enter. After this show of force, the crowd withdrew from the armory. [53]

At the courthouse, the crowd had swollen to nearly 2,000, many of them now armed. Several local leaders, including Reverend Charles W. Kerr, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, tried to dissuade mob action. Chief of Police John A. Gustafson later claimed that he tried to talk the crowd into going home. [54]

Anxiety on Greenwood Avenue was rising. Many Black residents worried about the safety of Rowland. Small groups of armed Black men ventured toward the courthouse in automobiles, partly for reconnaissance and to demonstrate they were prepared to take necessary action to protect Rowland. [54] Many White men interpreted these actions as a "Negro uprising" and became concerned. Eyewitnesses reported gunshots, presumably fired into the air, increasing in frequency during the evening. [55]

In Greenwood, rumors began to fly – in particular, a report that Whites were storming the courthouse. Shortly after 10 p.m., a second, larger group of approximately 75 armed Black men decided to go to the courthouse. They offered their support to the sheriff, who declined their help. According to witnesses, a White man is alleged to have told one of the armed Black men to surrender his pistol. The man refused, and a shot was fired. That first shot might have been accidental, or meant as a warning it was a catalyst for an exchange of gunfire. [14]

Violent outbreaks Edit

The gunshots triggered an almost immediate response, with both sides firing on the other. The first "battle" was said to last a few seconds or so, but took a toll, as ten Whites and two Black men lay dead or dying in the street. [48] The Black men who had offered to provide security retreated toward Greenwood. A rolling gunfight ensued. The armed white mob pursued the Black contingent toward Greenwood, with many stopping to loot local stores for additional weapons and ammunition. Along the way, bystanders, many of whom were leaving a movie theater after a show, were caught off guard by the mobs and fled. Panic set in as the White mob began firing on any Black people in the crowd. The White mob also shot and killed at least one White man in the confusion. [56] According to the Oklahoma Historical Society some in the mob were deputized by police and instructed to "get a gun and get a nigger". [57]

At around 11 p.m., members of the National Guard unit began to assemble at the armory to organize a plan to subdue the rioters. Several groups were deployed downtown to set up guard at the courthouse, police station, and other public facilities. Members of the local chapter of the American Legion joined in on patrols of the streets. The forces appeared to have been deployed to protect the White districts adjacent to Greenwood. The National Guard rounded up numerous Black people and took them to the Convention Hall on Brady Street for detention. [58]

At around midnight, a small crowd of Whites assembled outside the courthouse. They shouted in support of a lynching, but they did not rush the building and nothing happened. [56]

Throughout the early morning hours, groups of armed White and Black people squared off in gunfights. The fighting was concentrated along sections of the Frisco tracks, a dividing line between the Black and White commercial districts. A rumor circulated that more Black people were coming by train from Muskogee to help with an invasion of Tulsa. At one point, passengers on an incoming train were forced to take cover on the floor of the train cars, as they had arrived in the midst of crossfire, with the train taking hits on both sides. Small groups of Whites made brief forays by car into Greenwood, indiscriminately firing into businesses and residences. They often received return fire. Meanwhile, White rioters threw lighted oil rags into several buildings along Archer Street, igniting them. [59]

As unrest spread to other parts of the city, many middle class White families who employed Black people in their homes as live-in cooks and servants were accosted by white rioters. They demanded the families turn over their employees to be taken to detention centers around the city. Many white families complied, but those who refused were subjected to attacks and vandalism in turn. [60]

Fires begin Edit

At around 1 a.m., the White mob began setting fires, mainly in businesses on commercial Archer Street at the southern edge of the Greenwood district. As news traveled among Greenwood residents in the early morning hours, many began to take up arms in defense of their neighborhood, while others began a mass exodus from the city. [61] Throughout the night both sides continued fighting, sometimes only sporadically.

As crews from the Tulsa Fire Department arrived to put out fires, they were turned away at gunpoint. [62] Scott Elsworth makes the same claim, [63] but his reference makes no mention of firefighters. [64] Parrish gave only praise for the National Guard. [65] Another reference Elsworth gives to support the claim of holding firefighters at gunpoint is only a summary of events in which they suppressed the firing of guns by the rioters and disarmed them of their firearms. [66] Yet another of his references states that they were fired upon by the White mob, "It would mean a fireman's life to turn a stream of water on one of those negro buildings. They shot at us all morning when we were trying to do something but none of my men was hit. There is not a chance in the world to get through that mob into the negro district." [49] By 4 a.m., an estimated two dozen Black-owned businesses had been set ablaze.

Tulsa founder and Ku Klux Klan member W. Tate Brady participated in the riot as a night watchman. [67] This Land Press reported that previously, Brady led the Tulsa Outrage, the November 7, 1917 tarring and feathering of members of the Industrial Workers of the World — an incident understood to be economically and politically, rather than racially, motivated. [68] Previous reports regarding Brady's character seem favorable, and he hired Black employees in his businesses. [69]

Daybreak Edit

Upon sunrise, around 5 a.m., a train whistle sounded (Hirsch said it was a siren). Some rioters believed this sound to be a signal for the rioters to launch an all-out assault on Greenwood. A White man stepped out from behind the Frisco depot and was fatally shot by a sniper in Greenwood. Crowds of rioters poured from their shelter, on foot and by car, into the streets of the Black neighborhood. Five white men in a car led the charge but were killed by a fusillade of gunfire before they had travelled one block. [70]

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of White attackers, the Black residents retreated north on Greenwood Avenue to the edge of town. Chaos ensued as terrified residents fled. The rioters shot indiscriminately and killed many residents along the way. Splitting into small groups, they began breaking into houses and buildings, looting. Several residents later testified the rioters broke into occupied homes and ordered the residents out to the street, where they could be driven or forced to walk to detention centers. [71] A rumor spread among the rioters that the new Mount Zion Baptist Church was being used as a fortress and armory. Purportedly twenty caskets full of rifles had been delivered to the church, though no evidence was found. [72]

Attack by air Edit

Numerous eyewitnesses described airplanes carrying white assailants, who fired rifles and dropped firebombs on buildings, homes, and fleeing families. The privately-owned aircraft had been dispatched from the nearby Curtiss-Southwest Field outside Tulsa. [22] Law enforcement officials later said that the planes were to provide reconnaissance and protect against a "Negro uprising". [22] Law enforcement personnel were thought to be aboard at least some flights. [73] Eyewitness accounts, such as testimony from the survivors during Commission hearings and a manuscript by eyewitness and attorney Buck Colbert Franklin, discovered in 2015, said that on the morning of June 1, at least "a dozen or more" planes circled the neighborhood and dropped "burning turpentine balls" on an office building, a hotel, a filling station and multiple other buildings. Men also fired rifles at Black residents, gunning them down in the street. [74] [22]

Richard S. Warner concluded in his submission to The Oklahoma Commission that contrary to later reports by claimed eyewitnesses of seeing explosions, there was no reliable evidence to support such attacks. [75] Warner noted that while a number of newspapers targeted at Black readers heavily reported the use of nitroglycerin, turpentine and rifles from the planes, many cited anonymous sources or second-hand accounts. [75] Beryl Ford, one of the pre-eminent historians of the disaster, concluded from his large collection of photographs that there was no evidence of any building damaged by explosions. [76] Danney Goble commended Warner on his efforts and supported his conclusions. [77] State representative Don Ross (born in Tulsa in 1941), however, dissented from the evidence presented in the report concluding that bombs were in fact dropped from planes during the violence. [78]

Franklin's account Edit

In 2015, a previously unknown written eyewitness account of the events of May 31, 1921, was discovered and subsequently obtained by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The 10-page typewritten letter was authored by Buck Colbert Franklin, noted Oklahoma attorney and father of John Hope Franklin. [74] [79]

Lurid flames roared and belched and licked their forked tongues into the air. Smoke ascended the sky in thick, black volumes and amid it all, the planes – now a dozen or more in number – still hummed and darted here and there with the agility of natural birds of the air.

Planes circling in midair: They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top.

The sidewalks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from, and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught fire from the top.

I paused and waited for an opportune time to escape. 'Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?' I asked myself, 'Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?'

Franklin states that every time he saw a White man shot, he "felt happy" [80] and he "swelled with pride and hope for the race." [81] Franklin reports seeing multiple machine guns firing at night and hearing "thousands and thousands of guns" being fired simultaneously from all directions. [82] He states that he was arrested by "a thousand boys, it seemed. firing their guns every step they took." [80]

Arrival of National Guard troops Edit

Adjutant General Charles Barrett of the Oklahoma National Guard arrived by special train at about 9:15 a.m., with 109 troops from Oklahoma City. Ordered in by the governor, he could not legally act until he had contacted all the appropriate local authorities, including Mayor T. D. Evans, the sheriff, and the police chief. Meanwhile, his troops paused to eat breakfast. Barrett summoned reinforcements from several other Oklahoma cities. Barrett declared martial law at 11:49 a.m., [72] and by noon the troops had managed to suppress most of the remaining violence.

Thousands of Black residents had fled the city another 4,000 people had been rounded up and detained at various centers. Under martial law, the detainees were required to carry identification cards. [83] As many as 6,000 Black Greenwood residents were interned at three local facilities: Convention Hall (now known as the Tulsa Theater), the Tulsa County Fairgrounds (then located about a mile northeast of Greenwood) and McNulty Park (a baseball stadium at Tenth Street and Elgin Avenue). [16] [84] [85]

A 1921 letter from an officer of the Service Company, Third Infantry, Oklahoma National Guard, who arrived on May 31, 1921, reported numerous events related to the suppression of the riot:

  • taking about 30–40 Black residents into custody
  • putting a machine gun on a truck and taking it on patrol, although it was not functioning and much less useful than "an ordinary rifle"
  • being fired on from Black snipers from the "church" and returning fire
  • being fired on by White men
  • turning the prisoners over to deputies to take them to police headquarters
  • being fired upon again by armed Black residents and having two NCOs slightly wounded
  • searching for Black snipers and firearms
  • detailing an NCO to take 170 Black residents to the civil authorities and
  • delivering an additional 150 Black residents to the Convention Hall. [66]

Captain John W. McCune reported that stockpiled ammunition within the burning structures began to explode which might have further contributed to casualties. [86] Martial law was withdrawn on June 4, under Field Order No. 7. [87]

Casualties Edit

The massacre was covered by national newspapers, and the reported number of deaths varies widely. On June 1, 1921, the Tulsa Tribune reported that nine White people and 68 Black people had died in the riot, but shortly afterwards it changed this number to a total of 176 dead. The next day, the same paper reported the count as nine White people and 21 Black people. The Los Angeles Express headline said "175 Killed, Many Wounded". [89] The New York Times said that 77 people had been killed, including 68 Black people, but it later lowered the total to 33. The Richmond Times Dispatch of Virginia reported that 85 people (including 25 White people) were killed it also reported that the police chief had reported to Governor Robertson that the total was 75 and that a police major put the figure at 175. [90] The Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics put the number of deaths at 36 (26 Black and 10 White). [91] Very few people, if any, died as a direct result of the fire. Official state records show five deaths by conflagration for the entire state in 1921. [92]

Walter Francis White of the NAACP traveled to Tulsa from New York and reported that, although officials and undertakers said that the fatalities numbered 10 White and 21 Black, he estimated the number of the dead to be 50 Whites and between 150 and 200 Blacks [93] he also reported that 10 White men were killed on Tuesday six White men drove into the Black section and never came out, and 13 Whites were killed on Wednesday he reported that Major O.T. Johnson of the Salvation Army in Tulsa, said that 37 Blacks were employed as gravediggers to bury 120 Blacks in individual graves without coffins on Friday and Saturday. [94] The Oklahoma Commission described Johnson's statement being that his crew was over three dozen grave diggers who dug "about" 150 graves. [95] Ground-penetrating radar was used to investigate the sites purported to contain these mass graves. Multiple eyewitness reports and "oral histories" suggested the graves could have been dug at three different cemeteries across the city. The sites were examined, and no evidence of ground disturbance indicative of mass graves were found. However, at one site, the ground disturbance was found in a five-meter square area, but cemetery records indicate that three graves had been dug and bodies buried within this envelope before the riot. [96]

Oklahoma's 2001 Commission into the riot provides multiple contradicting estimates. Goble estimates 100–300 deaths (also stating right after that no one was prosecuted even though nearly a hundred were indicted), [97] and Franklin and Ellsworth estimate 75–100 deaths and describe some of the higher estimates as dubious as the low estimates. [98] C. Snow was able to confirm 39 casualties, all listed as male although four were unidentifiable 26 were Black and 13 were White. [19] The 13 White fatalities were all taken to hospitals. [99] Eleven of them had come from outside of Oklahoma, and possibly as many as half were petroleum industry workers. [100] Only eight of the confirmed 26 Black fatalities were brought to hospitals, [99] and as hospitals were segregated, and with the Black Frissell Memorial Hospital having burned down, the only place where the injured Black people were treated was at the basement of Morningside Hospital. [3] Several hundred were injured. [3]

The Red Cross, in their preliminary overview, mentioned wide-ranging external estimates of 55 to 300 dead however, because of the hurried nature of undocumented burials, they declined to submit an official estimate, stating, "The number of dead is a matter of conjecture." [101] The Red Cross registered 8,624 persons 183 people were hospitalized, mostly for gunshot wounds or burns (they are differentiated in their records on the basis of triage category not the type of wound), while a further 531 required first aid or surgical treatment eight miscarriages were attributed to be a result of the tragedy 19 died in care between June 1 and December 30, 1921. [102]


What happened to Black Wall Street on June 1, 1921?

Black Wall Street, the name fittingly given to one of the most affluent all-Black communities in America, was bombed from the air and burned to the ground by mobs of envious Whites. In a period spanning fewer than 12 hours, a once thriving Black business district in northern Tulsa lay smoldering – a model community destroyed and a major African-American economic movement resoundingly defused.

The night’s carnage left some 3,000 African Americans dead and over 600 successful businesses lost. Among these were 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. As could have been expected, the impetus behind it all was the infamous Ku Klux Klan, working in consort with ranking city officials and many other sympathizers.

The best description of Black Wall Street, or Little Africa as it was also known, would be to compare it to a mini Beverly Hills. It was the golden door of the Black community during the early 1900s, and it proved that African Americans could create a successful infrastructure. That’s what Black Wall Street was all about.

The dollar circulated 36 to 100 times, sometimes taking a year for currency to leave the community. Now a dollar leaves the Black community in 15 minutes. As for resources, there were Ph.D.s residing in Little Africa, Black attorneys and doctors. One doctor was Dr. Berry, who owned the bus system. His average income was $500 a day, hefty pocket change in 1910.

It was a time when the entire state of Oklahoma had only two airports, yet six Blacks owned their own planes. It was a very fascinating community.

The mainstay of the community was to educate every child. Nepotism was the one word they believed in. And that’s what we need to get back to. The main thoroughfare was Greenwood Avenue, and it was intersected by Archer and Pine Streets. From the first letters in each of those three names you get G.A.P. And that’s where the renowned R&B music group the GAP Band got its name. They’re from Tulsa.

Black Wall Street was a prime example of the typical Black community in America that did business, but it was in an unusual location. You see, at the time, Oklahoma was set aside to be a Black and Indian state. There were over 28 Black townships there. One third of the people who traveled in the terrifying “Trail of Tears” alongside the Indians between 1830 and 1842 were Black people. The citizens of this proposed Indian and Black state chose a Black governor, a treasurer from Kansas named McDade. But the Ku Klux Klan said that if he assumed office that they would kill him within 48 hours.

A lot of Blacks owned farmland, and many of them had gone into the oil business.

The community was so tight and wealthy because they traded dollars hand to hand and because they were dependent upon one another as a result of the Jim Crow laws. It was not unusual that if a resident’s home accidentally burned down, it could be rebuilt within a few weeks by neighbors. This was the type of scenario that was going on day to day on Black Wall Street.

When Blacks intermarried into the Indian culture, some of them received their promised “40 acres and a mule” and with that came whatever oil was later found on the properties. On Black Wall Street, a lot of global business was conducted.

The community flourished from the early 1900s until June 1, 1921. That’s when the largest massacre of nonmilitary Americans in the history of this country took place, and it was led by the Ku Klux Klan. Imagine walking out of your front door and seeing 1,500 homes being burned. It must have been amazing.

Survivors we interviewed think that the whole thing was planned, because during the time that all of this was going on, White families with their children stood around the borders of their community and watched the massacre – the looting and everything – much in the same manner they would watch a lynching. The riots weren’t caused by anything Black or White. They were caused by jealousy.

A lot of White folks had come back from World War I and they were poor. When they looked over into the Black communities and realized that Black men who fought in the war had come home heroes, that helped trigger the destruction. It cost the Black community everything, and not a single dime of restitution – no insurance claims – has been awarded the victims to this day. Nonetheless, they rebuilt.

We estimate 1,500 to 3,000 people were killed, and we know that a lot of them were buried in mass graves all around the city. Some were thrown into the river. As a matter of fact, at 21st Street and Yale Avenue, where there now stands a Sears parking lot, that corner used to be a coal mine. They threw a lot of the bodies into the shafts.

‘The gun went off, the riot was on’

On the night of May 31,1921, mobs called for the lynching of Dick Rowland, a Black man who shined shoes, after hearing reports that on the previous day he had assaulted Sarah Page, a White woman, in the elevator she operated in a downtown building.

A local newspaper had printed a fabricated story that Rowland tried to rape Page. In an editorial, the same newspaper said a hanging was planned for that night. As groups of both Blacks and Whites converged on the Tulsa Courthouse, a White man in the crowd confronted an armed Black man, a war veteran, who had joined with other Blacks to protect Rowland.

Eddie Faye Gates, a member of the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed several years ago to determine exactly what happened, told CNN what happened next.

“This White man,” she said, asked the Black man, “What are you doing with this gun?” “I’m going to use it if I have to,” the Black man said, according to Gates, “and (the White man) said, ‘No, you’re not. Give it to me,’ and he tried to take it. The gun went off, the White man was dead, the riot was on.”

Truckloads of Whites set fires and shot Blacks on sight. When the smoke lifted the next day, more than 1,400 homes and businesses in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, a prosperous area known as the “Black Wall Street,” lay in ruins. Today, only a single block of the original buildings remains standing in the area. Experts now estimate that at least 3,000 died.

‘We’re in a heck of a lot of trouble’

Beulah Smith was 14 years old the night of the riot. A neighbor named Frenchie came pounding on her family’s door in a Tulsa neighborhood known as “Little Africa” that also went up in flames.

“Get your families out of here because they’re killing Niggers uptown,” she remembers Frenchie saying. “We hid in the weeds in the hog pen,” Smith told CNN.

People in a mob that came to Kenny Booker’s house asked, “Nigger, do you have a gun?” he told CNN. Booker, then a teenager, hid with his family in their attic until the home was torched. “When we got downstairs, things were burning. My sister asked me, ‘Kenny, is the world on fire?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, but we’re in a heck of a lot of trouble, baby.’”

Another riot survivor, Ruth Avery, who was 7 at the time, gives an account matched by others who told of bombs dropped from small airplanes passing overhead.

The explosive devices may have been dynamite or Molotov cocktails – gasoline-filled bottles set afire and thrown as grenades. “They’d throw it down and when it’d hit, it would burst into flames,” Avery said.

Only a single block remains of the 1,400 homes and businesses that made up the area known as Black Wall Street.

Unmarked graves

Many of the survivors mentioned bodies were stacked like cord wood, says Richard Warner of the Tulsa Historical Society.

In its search for the facts, the commission has literally been trying to dig up the truth.

Two headstones at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery indicate that riot victims are buried there. In an effort to determine how many, archeological experts used ground-piercing radar and other equipment to test the soil in a search for unmarked graves.

The test picked up indications that hundreds of people have been buried in an area just outside the cemetery.

Editor’s note: The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed in 1997 to determine exactly what happened and what should be done now, delivered its final report in 2001, calling for substantial restitution. “In June 2001,” according to Wikipedia, “the Oklahoma state legislature passed the ‘1921 Tulsa Race Riot Reconciliation Act.’ While falling short of the commission’s recommendations, it provided for more than 300 college scholarships for descendants of Greenwood residents, mandated the creation of a memorial to those who died in the riot, and called for new efforts to promote economic development in Greenwood. A documentary, “Before They Die!” has been made about the survivors and their quest for justice. It chronicles efforts in Oklahoma to gain reparations for the survivors. And watch the video “One Day in May!” at www.BeforeTheyDieMovie.com.

This story comes from the Ujamaa Network, which can be reached at [email protected] They add these words of wisdom: “We must buy from ourselves in order to re-circulate Black dollars. If we want our dollars to return, we must spend them within our own community. 2011 will be our year if we decide it will be. Make a commitment to yourself to do as much of your spending within our community as possible.”


9-16-1920 Wall Street Bombing

The Wall Street bombing occurred at 12:01 p.m. on September 16, 1920, in the Financial District of New York City. The blast killed 38 and seriously injured 143. It was more deadly than the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in 1910. It was the deadliest bomb attack on U.S. soil until the Bath School bombings in Michigan seven years later. Like the 1919 United States anarchist bombings, the Wall Street bombing may have been perpetrated by a Galleanist.

At noon, a wagon passed by lunchtime crowds on Wall Street in New York City and stopped across the street from the headquarters of the J.P. Morgan bank at 23 Wall Street, on the Financial District's busiest corner. Inside, 100 pounds (45 kg) of dynamite with 500 pounds (230 kg) of heavy, cast-iron sash weights exploded in a timer-set detonation, sending the slugs tearing through the air. The horse and wagon were blasted into small fragments.

The 38 victims, most of whom died within moments of the blast, were mostly young and worked as messengers, stenographers, clerks and brokers. Many of the wounded suffered severe injuries. The bomb caused over $2 million in property damage and wrecked most of the interior spaces of the Morgan building.

The Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation (BOI) did not immediately conclude that the bomb was an act of terrorism. The number of innocent people killed and the lack of a specific target, other than buildings that suffered relatively superficial, non-structural damage, left investigators puzzled. Exploring the possibility of an accident, police contacted businesses that sold and transported explosives.[6] By 3:30 pm, the board of governors of the New York Stock Exchange had met and decided to open for business the next day. Crews cleaned up the area overnight to allow for business to operate normally the next day, but in doing so they destroyed physical evidence that might have helped police investigators solve the crime.[7] The local assistant district attorney's noted that the timing and location were too precise for the explosion to have been an accident, and given the target, he suspected Bolsheviks, anarchists, communists, or socialists.[8]

However, focus soon shifted to radical groups opposed to the U.S. government and the capitalism. Authorities noted that the Wall Street bomb was detonated in a public place, and used shrapnel to increase casualties among financial workers and institutions during the busy lunch hour. Officials eventually blamed anarchists and communists. The Washington Post went so far as to call the bombing an "act of war." The Sons of the American Revolution had previously scheduled a rally on September 17 in celebration of Constitution Day at the same intersection. Thousands attended in a show of patriotism and in defiance of the previous day's attack.[10]

The bombing caused renewed investigation into the activities and movements of foreign radicals, stimulating the development of the U.S. Justice Department's General Intelligence Division of the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI).

here is a whole list of domestic terrorism in the unites states http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_in_the_United_States#1900-1959

It's interesting to see how radical people were even 100 years ago.

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The catastrophic Wall St bombing of 1920

As lunchtime started in 16th Sept 1920, a unremarkable man driving a horse and cart drove forward. He stopped the animal and its heavy load in front of the US Assay Office, across from the JP Morgan building in Wall St. The driver got down and quickly disappeared into the busy crowd.

Bank clerks and stock brokers were swarming around the building fronts, and the streets were clogged with cars and messenger boys. The lunchtime crowd paid no notice to the battered horse-drawn wagon, unfortunately. Within minutes, the cart expl­oded into a hail of metal pieces.

The mound of dynamite, concealed in the wagon, deton­at­ed with an ear-splitting roar. The blast derailed a street­car a block over and sent debris soaring up to the 34th floor of the nearby Equitable Building skyscraper. Pieces of the wagon’s ill-fated horse landed hundreds of yards away. Stock­broker Joseph Kennedy, father of future Pres. John Kennedy, was lifted clear off his feet by the explosion.

Shattered window glass drenched the streets and nearby offices. The inside of the Morgan building was raked by debris. Trading at the Stock Exchange ground to a halt, and 2,000 New York policemen and Red Cross nurses converged on Wall St to comb the carn­age. The initial explosion had killed 30 men and women, and another 8 died from their wounds that day or the next. Hundreds more were burned or maimed by flying glass and shrapnel. The air was thick with smoke and soot, and severed limbs littered the ground.

Investigators struggled to explain who had carried it out & why. The target was possibly the Morgan Bank, which some critics claimed had profited off the horrors of WWI. But most of the wagon bomb’s vict­ims were lowly clerks, not wealthy business­men, and JP Morgan him­self was away in Europe.

Wall St reopened a day after the explosion, to show the world that Wall St was Open for Business. Broken windows were draped in canvas and crews cleaned the damage up overnight, including phys­­ic­al evid­ence that might have helped identify the perpet­rator. Wound­ed off­ice clerks return­ed to their desks and by the next morning Wall St was back in business. That af­t­ernoon thousands of New Yorkers moved to Wall St and sang America the Beautiful and the National Anthem together.

and the adjoining businesses.

The dead were covered in the streets and taken to the morgue.

With the first Red Scare heating up, people started blamed the anti-capital­ist communist and anarchist groups that had been blam­­ed for many bombings since the C19th. Then there was one lead. A letter carrier had found cheaply printed flyers in the area, from an Italian group calling itself the American An­ar­chist Fighters that demanded the re­lease of political prisoners. They said “Free the politic­al pris­oners, or it will be sure death for all of you. Amer­ican Anar­chist Fighters.” So the Bureau closely investigated the printing of these flyers, but to no avail.

But a consensus was forming: immigrants did it. The early C20th had seen a massive influx of immigrants into the US, primarily from Southern and Eastern Europe. Largely Jewish or Catholic, these im­m­igrants were “alien” to what was seen as a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant country. Many of them also subscrib­ed to left-wing pol­it­ical ideologies that were seen as threats to the US, after the Bolsh­ev­ik Revolution brought communism to Russia in 1917. Thus the Red Scare targeted large­ly left-wing immigrant activists in the US.

A Washington Post editorial from Sept 20th 1920, desc­ribed the Wall Street bombing as exemplifying the extent to which the alien scum from the cesspools and sewers of the Old World has polluted the clear spring of American democracy .

The Department of Justice launched raids, round­ing up thousands of leftist political activists and deporting as many as possible back to their home countries. The DOJ charged a young J Edgar Hoov­er with investigating the attack, along with the New York City Police Dep­art­ment. The nasty repression of imm­ig­rants led to the civil liberties movement the ACLU was formed in 1920 to add­ress this government crackdown on free speech and political act­ivism.

In 1921, Vice Pres Cal­vin Coolidge decried the threat posed by leftist immigrants to the US, writing “There is no room for the alien who turns toward Amer­ica with the avowed intention of oppos­ing government. His purpose is to tear down. There is no room for him here. He needs to be deport­ed as a part of his punishment.”

Newspapers across the nation brought the terrible New York events

Some immigrants did commit violent acts in WW1. But so did American-born citizens commit violent crimes. Nonetheless in 1924, Pres. Coolidge signed the National Origins Act, which established a quota system based on the 1890 census, before the mass arrival of immig­rants from Southern and Eastern Europe! As a direct result of this Act, America’s doors were closed from 1924 on.

Two questions still remain. Firstly why are the scars that are still visible on Morgan build­ing today the lone monument to a crime that claimed 38 innocent lives? Secondly if the nasty National Origins Act was based on unproven evidence from the 1920 bombing, why did it take until after 1945 for would-be mig­rants to be allowed into the USA.


Remembering the Wall Street bombing of 1920

Wall Street bombing explosion - Overturned auto and crowd (Photo NY Daily News via Getty Images)

On a usual day, lunchtime down on Wall Street today is chaotic mess of brokers and bankers on cell phones, tour groups, messengers on bikes, police officers, construction workers, people delivering lunch and perhaps a stray older lady walking her dog. One hundred years ago today, in 1920, it would have practically been the same, sans [&hellip]


A Long-Lost Manuscript Contains a Searing Eyewitness Account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

The ten-page manuscript is typewritten, on yellowed legal paper, and folded in thirds. But the words, an eyewitness account of the May 31, 1921, racial massacre that destroyed what was known as Tulsa, Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street,” are searing.

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“I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top,” wrote Buck Colbert Franklin (1879-1960). 

The Oklahoma lawyer, father of famed African-American historian John Hope Franklin (1915-2009), was describing the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood known as Greenwood in the booming oil town. “Lurid flames roared and belched and licked their forked tongues into the air. Smoke ascended the sky in thick, black volumes and amid it all, the planes—now a dozen or more in number—still hummed and darted here and there with the agility of natural birds of the air.”

Franklin writes that he left his law office, locked the door, and descended to the foot of the steps.

“The side-walks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from, and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught from the top,” he continues. “I paused and waited for an opportune time to escape. ‘Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?’ I asked myself. ‘Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?’”

Franklin’s harrowing manuscript now resides among the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The previously unknown document was found last year, purchased from a private seller by a group of Tulsans and donated to the museum with the support of the Franklin family.

In the manuscript, Franklin tells of his encounters with an African-American veteran, named Mr. Ross. It begins in 1917, when Franklin meets Ross while recruiting young black men to fight in World War I. It picks up in 1921 with his own eyewitness account of the Tulsa race riots, and ends ten years later with the story of how Mr. Ross’s life has been destroyed by the riots. Two original photographs of Franklin were part of the donation. One depicts him operating with his associates out of a Red Cross tent five days after the riots.

John W. Franklin, a senior program manager with the museum, is the grandson of manuscript’s author and remembers the first time he read the found document.

“I wept. I just wept. It’s so beautifully written and so powerful, and he just takes you there,”  Franklin marvels. “You wonder what happened to the other people. What was the emotional impact of having your community destroyed and having to flee for your lives?”

B.C. Franklin and his associates pose before his law offices in Ardmore, Oklahoma, 1910 (NMAAHC, Gift from Tulsa Friends and John W. and Karen R. Franklin)

The younger Franklin says Tulsa has been in denial over the fact that people were cruel enough to bomb the black community from the air, in private planes, and that black people were machine-gunned down in the streets. The issue was economics. Franklin explains that Native Americans and African-Americans became wealthy thanks to the discovery of oil in the early 1900s on what had previously been seen as worthless land.

“That’s what leads to Greenwood being called the Black Wall Street. It had restaurants and furriers and jewelry stores and hotels,” John W. Franklin explains, “and the white mobs looted the homes and businesses before they set fire to the community. For years black women would see white women walking down the street in their jewelry and snatch it off.”

Museum curator Paul Gardullo, who has spent five years along with Franklin collecting artifacts from the riot and the aftermath, says: “It was the frustration of poor whites not knowing what to do with a successful black community, and in coalition with the city government were given permission to do what they did.”

Also in the museum's collections is a protest sign from 2000 calling for reparations for the Tulsa massacre. (NMAAHC, Gift of Eddie Faye Gates)

Contents

Joseph Patrick Kennedy was born in 1888 in Boston, Massachusetts. Kennedy was the elder son of Mary Augusta (Hickey) Kennedy and businessman and politician Patrick Joseph "P.J." Kennedy. He had a younger brother, Francis, and two younger sisters, Mary and Margaret. All four of Joe's grandparents had immigrated to Massachusetts in the 1840s to escape the Irish famine. He was born into a highly sectarian society, where Irish Catholics were excluded by the upper-class Boston Brahmins. The Boston Irish thus became active in the Democratic Party, which included P.J., an accomplished businessman, and numerous relatives. P.J. Kennedy's successful saloon business, investment ventures, and influential role in local politics enabled him to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family. His mother encouraged Joe to attend the Boston Latin School, where he was a below-average scholar but was popular among his classmates, winning election as class president and playing on the school baseball team. [ citation needed ]

Kennedy followed in the footsteps of elder cousins by attending Harvard College. He focused on becoming a social leader, working energetically to gain admittance to the prestigious Hasty Pudding Club. While at Harvard he joined the Delta Upsilon International fraternity and played on the baseball team, but he was blackballed from the Porcellian Club. [ citation needed ] Kennedy graduated in 1912 [4] with a bachelor's degree in economics. [5]

On October 7, 1914, Kennedy married Rose Fitzgerald, [6] the eldest daughter of Boston Mayor John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald and Mary Josephine "Josie" Hannon. [7]

Kennedy pursued a career in business and investing. In his mid- to late 20s, he made a large fortune as a stock market and commodity investor he reinvested in real estate and a wide range of business industries. He did not build a significant business from scratch, but his timing as both buyer and seller was usually excellent. [8]

Various criminals, such as Frank Costello, have boasted they worked with Kennedy in mysterious bootlegging operations during Prohibition. [9] Scholars dismiss the claims. The most recent and most thorough biographer David Nasaw asserts that no credible evidence has been found to link Kennedy to bootlegging activities. [10] When Fortune magazine published its first list of the richest people in the United States in 1957, it placed Kennedy in the $200–400 million group. [1] [11]

Early ventures Edit

Kennedy's first job after graduating from Harvard was a position as a state-employed bank examiner this job allowed him to learn a great deal about the banking industry. In 1913, the Columbia Trust Bank, in which his father held a significant share, was under threat of takeover. Kennedy borrowed $45,000 ($1,178,333 today) [1] from family and friends and bought back control. At the age of 25, he was rewarded by being elected the bank's president. Kennedy told the press he was "the youngest" bank president in America. [12]

Kennedy emerged as a highly successful entrepreneur who had an eye for value. For example, he was a real estate investor who turned a handsome profit from ownership of Old Colony Realty Associates, Inc., which bought distressed real estate. [13]

Although he was skeptical of American involvement in the war, Kennedy sought to participate in wartime production as an assistant general manager of Fore River, a major Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. There, he oversaw the production of transports and warships. Through this job, he became acquainted with Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt. [ citation needed ]

Wall Street and stock market investments Edit

In 1919, Kennedy joined the prominent stock brokerage firm of Hayden, Stone & Co. where he became an expert dealing in the unregulated stock market of the day, engaging in tactics that were later considered to be insider trading and market manipulation. He happened to be on the corner of Wall and Broad Streets at the moment of the Wall Street bombing on September 16, 1920, and was thrown to the ground by the force of the blast. [14] In 1923, he left Hayden and set up his own investment company. Kennedy subsequently became a multi-millionaire during the bull market of the 1920s and even wealthier as a result of taking "short" positions in 1929. [ citation needed ]

David M. Kennedy (no relation to this Kennedy) described the Wall Street of the Kennedy era as follows: [ citation needed ]

[It] was a strikingly information-starved environment. Many firms whose securities were publicly traded published no regular reports or issued reports whose data were so arbitrarily selected and capriciously audited as to be worse than useless. It was this circumstance that had conferred such awesome power on a handful of investment bankers like J. P. Morgan, because they commanded a virtual monopoly of the information necessary for making sound financial decisions. Especially in the secondary markets, where reliable information was all but impossible for the average investor to come by, opportunities abounded for insider manipulation and wildcat speculation.

1929 Wall Street Crash Edit

Kennedy formed alliances with several other Irish-Catholic investors, including Charles E. Mitchell, Michael J. Meehan, and Bernard Smith. He helped establish a "stock pool" to control trading in the stock of glassmaker Libbey-Owens-Ford. The arrangement drove up the value of the pool operators' holdings in the stock by using insider information and the public's lack of knowledge. Pool operators would bribe journalists to present information in the most advantageous manner. Pool operators tried to corner a stock and drive the price up, or drive the price down with a "bear raid". Kennedy got into a bidding war for control of Yellow Cab Company. [15]

Kennedy later claimed he understood that the rampant stock speculation of the late 1920s would lead to a market crash. Supposedly, he said that he knew it was time to get out of the market when he received stock tips from a shoe-shine boy. [16] Kennedy survived the crash "because he possessed a passion for facts, a complete lack of sentiment and a marvelous sense of timing". [17]

During the Great Depression, Kennedy vastly increased his fortune by investing most of his money in real estate. In 1929, Kennedy's fortune was estimated to be $4 million (equivalent to $60.3 million today). [1] By 1935, his wealth had increased to $180 million (equivalent to $3.4 billion today). [1]

Investments in entertainment, shipping, and real estate Edit

Kennedy made huge profits from reorganizing and refinancing several Hollywood film studios. Film production in the U.S. was much more decentralized than it is today, with many different movie studios producing film product. [ citation needed ] One small studio was Film Booking Offices of America (or FBO), which specialized in Westerns produced cheaply. Its owner was in financial trouble, and asked Kennedy to help find a new owner. Kennedy formed his own group of investors and bought it for $1.5 million. [ citation needed ]

In March 1926, Kennedy moved to Hollywood to focus on running film studios. At that time, film studios were permitted to own exhibition companies, which were necessary to get their films on local screens. With that in mind, in a hostile buyout, he acquired the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Theaters Corporation (KAO), which had more than 700 vaudeville theaters across the United States that had begun showing movies. He later purchased another production studio called Pathe Exchange, and merged those two entities with Cecil B. DeMille's Producers Distributing Corporation in March 1927. [ citation needed ]

In August 1928, he unsuccessfully tried to run First National Pictures. [19] In October 1928, he formally merged his film companies FBO and KAO to form Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) and made a large amount of money in the process. Then, keen to buy the Pantages Theatre chain, which had 63 profitable theaters, Kennedy made an offer of $8 million ($121 million today). [1] It was declined. He then stopped distributing his movies to Pantages. Still, Alexander Pantages declined to sell. However, when Pantages was later charged and tried for rape, his reputation took a battering, and he accepted Kennedy's revised offer of $3.5 million ($52.8 million today). [1] Pantages, who claimed that Kennedy had "set him up", was later found not guilty at a second trial. The girl who had accused Pantages of rape, Eunice Pringle, confessed on her deathbed that Kennedy was the mastermind of the plot to frame Pantages. [20]

Many estimate that Kennedy made over $5 million ($75.4 million today) [1] from his investments in Hollywood. During his three-year affair with film star Gloria Swanson, [22] he arranged the financing for her films The Love of Sunya (1927) and the ill-fated Queen Kelly (1928). The duo also used Hollywood's famous "body sculptor", masseuse Sylvia of Hollywood. [22] Their relationship ended when Swanson discovered that an expensive gift from Kennedy had been charged to her account. [23]

A recurring rumor alleges that he made money in bootlegging illegal liquor during Prohibition. Historians have not found credible evidence of this [ citation needed ] . On the contrary, there is abundant evidence that as the end of prohibition loomed (in 1933), Kennedy invested heavily in Scottish distilleries. [ citation needed ] As soon as it became legal he imported large shipments of high-priced Scotch and made a large profit. Various contradictory "bootlegging" stories circulated but historians have not accepted them. At the start of the Franklin Roosevelt administration in March 1933, Kennedy and future Congressman James Roosevelt II founded Somerset Importers, an entity that acted as the exclusive American agent for Haig & Haig Scotch, Gordon's Dry Gin and Dewar's Scotch. Kennedy kept his Somerset company for years. [24] Kennedy himself drank little alcohol. He so disapproved of what he considered a stereotypical Irish vice that he offered his sons $1,000 not to drink until they turned 21. [25]

Kennedy invested his profits from alcohol into residential and commercial real estate in New York, the Le Pavillon restaurant, and the Hialeah Park Race Track in Hialeah, Florida. In addition, Kennedy purchased spirits-importation rights from Schenley Industries, a firm in Canada. [2] His most important purchase was the largest privately owned building in the country, Chicago's Merchandise Mart, [26] which gave his family a grounding in that city and an alliance with the city's Irish-American political leadership. [ citation needed ]

SEC Chairman (1934–1935) Edit

In 1932, Kennedy supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in his bid for the Presidency. This was his first major involvement in a national political campaign, and he donated, loaned, and raised a substantial amount of money for the campaign. [ citation needed ]

In 1934, Congress established the independent Securities and Exchange Commission to end irresponsible market manipulations and dissemination of false information about securities. [27]

In the 21st century, the SEC remains one of the most powerful government agencies. Its predecessor had been ineffective in 1933–34 as part of another agency and the financial market was dying. Roosevelt named Kennedy to head the SEC cleanup of Wall Street. The New Deal attracted many of the nation's most talented young lawyers. Roosevelt's brain trust drew up a list of recommended candidates for the SEC chairmanship. Kennedy headed the list, which stated he was "the best bet for Chairman because of executive ability, knowledge of habits and customs of business to be regulated and ability to moderate different points of view on Commission." [28]

Kennedy sought out the best lawyers available giving him a hard-driving team with a mission for reform. They included William O. Douglas and Abe Fortas, both of whom were later named to the Supreme Court. [29] The SEC had four missions. First was to restore investor confidence in the securities market, which had collapsed on account of its questionability, and the external threats supposedly posed by anti-business elements in the Roosevelt administration. Second, the SEC had to get rid of penny-ante swindles based on false information, fraudulent devices, and get-rich-quick schemes. Thirdly, and much more important than the frauds, the SEC had to end the million-dollar maneuvers in major corporations, whereby insiders with access to high-quality information about the company knew when to buy or sell their own securities. A crackdown on insider trading was essential. Finally, the SEC had to set up a complex system of registration for all securities sold in America, with a clear set of rules, deadlines and guidelines that all companies had to follow. The main challenge faced by the young lawyers was drafting precise rules. The SEC succeeded in its four missions, as Kennedy reassured the American business community that they would no longer be deceived and taken advantage of by Wall Street. He trumpeted for ordinary investors to return to the market and enable the economy to grow again. [30] Kennedy's reforming work as SEC Chairman was widely praised on all sides, as investors realized the SEC was protecting their interests. He resigned from the SEC in 1935. [31]

Chairman of U.S. Maritime Commission Edit

In 1937, Kennedy became the first Chairman of the U.S. Maritime Commission, [32] which built on his wartime experience in running a major shipyard.

Relationship with Father Charles Coughlin Edit

Father Charles Coughlin, an Irish-Canadian priest near Detroit, became the most prominent Roman Catholic spokesman on political and financial issues in the 1930s, with a radio audience that reached millions every week. Having been a strong supporter of Roosevelt since 1932, in 1934 Coughlin broke with the president, who became a bitter opponent of Coughlin's weekly anti-communist, anti-Semitic, far-right, anti–Federal Reserve and isolationist radio talks. Roosevelt sent Kennedy and other prominent Irish Catholics to try to tone down Coughlin. [33]

Coughlin swung his support to Huey Long in 1935 and then to William Lemke's Union Party in 1936. Kennedy strongly supported the New Deal (Father Coughlin believed that the New Deal did not go far enough – indeed that Franklin Roosevelt was a tool of the rich) and reportedly believed as early as 1933 that Coughlin was "becoming a very dangerous proposition" as an opponent of Roosevelt and "an out and out demagogue". In 1936, Kennedy worked with Roosevelt, Bishop Francis Spellman and Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII) to shut Coughlin down. [34] When Coughlin returned to the air in 1940, Kennedy continued to battle against his influence among Irish Americans. [35]

Despite his public disputes with Coughlin, it has also been acknowledged that Kennedy would also accompany Coughlin whenever the priest visited Roosevelt at Hyde Park. [36] A historian with History News Network also stated that Coughlin was in fact a friend of Kennedy as well. [37] In a Boston Post article of August 16, 1936, Coughlin referred to Kennedy as the "shining star among the dim 'knights' in the [Roosevelt] Administration." [38]

Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1938–1940) Edit

In 1938, Roosevelt appointed Kennedy as the United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's (UK). Kennedy hoped to succeed Roosevelt in the White House in 1940. [39]

Kennedy hugely enjoyed his leadership position in London high society, which stood in stark contrast to his relative outsider status in Boston. On May 6, 1944, his daughter Kathleen married William "Billy" Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, the elder son of the Duke of Devonshire. The union was disapproved by Rose Kennedy due to Hartington being an Anglican. Unable to reconcile their religious backgrounds, Hartington and Kathleen were married in a civil ceremony. Hartington, a major in the Coldstream Guards, was killed in action in 1944.

Appeasement Edit

Kennedy rejected the belief of Winston Churchill that any compromise with Nazi Germany was impossible. Instead, he supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. Throughout 1938, while the Nazi persecution of the Jews in Germany intensified, Kennedy attempted to arrange a meeting with Adolf Hitler. [40] Shortly before the Nazi bombing of British cities began in September 1940, Kennedy once again sought a personal meeting with Hitler without the approval of the U. S. Department of State, in order to "bring about a better understanding between the United States and Germany". [41]

Anti-British sentiment Edit

Kennedy also argued strongly against providing military and economic aid to the United Kingdom. "Democracy is finished in England. It may be here", he stated in the Boston Sunday Globe of November 10, 1940. With German troops having overrun Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France, and with daily bombings of Great Britain, Kennedy unambiguously and repeatedly stated that the war was not about saving democracy from National Socialism (Nazism) or from Fascism. In an interview with two newspaper journalists, Louis M. Lyons of The Boston Globe, and Ralph Coghlan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kennedy said:

It's all a question of what we do with the next six months. The whole reason for aiding England is to give us time . As long as she is in there, we have time to prepare. It isn't that [Britain is] fighting for democracy. That's the bunk. She's fighting for self-preservation, just as we will if it comes to us. . I know more about the European situation than anybody else, and it's up to me to see that the country gets it. [3]

Isolationist Edit

His views were becoming inconsistent and increasingly isolationist. British MP Josiah Wedgwood IV, who had himself opposed the British government's earlier appeasement policy, said of Kennedy:

We have a rich man, untrained in diplomacy, unlearned in history and politics, who is a great publicity seeker and who apparently is ambitious to be the first Catholic president of the U.S. [42]

Defeatist Edit

Kennedy told a British reporter in late 1939 that he was confident that Roosevelt would "fall" in 1940 (i.e. in that year's presidential election). [37]

In British government circles during the Blitz, Kennedy was widely disparaged as a defeatist. On September 19, 1939, he sent three of his nine children back to the United States. They were, Robert aged 13, Jeanne aged 10, and Edward aged 7. Kennedy retreated to the countryside during the bombings of London by German aircraft, at a time when the British Royal Family, Prime Minister, government ministers, and other ambassadors chose to stay in London.

I thought my daffodils were yellow until I met Joe Kennedy.

Recalled Edit

When the White House read his quotes it became clear that Kennedy was completely out of step with Roosevelt's policies. Kennedy was recalled from his diplomatic duties and returned to the United States. Roosevelt urgently needed his support to hold the Catholic vote and invited him to spend the night at the White House. Kennedy agreed to make a nationwide radio speech to advocate Roosevelt's reelection. Roosevelt was pleased with the speech because, Nasaw says, it successfully "rallied reluctant Irish Catholic voters to his side, buttressed his claims that he was not going to take the nation into war, and emphasized that he alone had the experience to lead the nation in these difficult times." After Roosevelt was reelected, Kennedy submitted his resignation as ambassador. [44]

Reduced influence Edit

Throughout the rest of the war, relations between Kennedy and the Roosevelt Administration remained tense, especially when Joe Jr. vocally opposed President Roosevelt's unprecedented nomination for a third term, which began in 1941. Kennedy may have wanted to run for president himself in 1940 or later. Having effectively removed himself from the national stage, Joe Sr. sat out World War II on the sidelines. Kennedy stayed active in the smaller venues of rallying Irish-American and Roman Catholic Democrats to vote for Roosevelt's re-election for a fourth term in 1944. Former Ambassador Kennedy claimed to be eager to help the war effort, but as a result of his previous gaffes, he was neither trusted nor invited to do so. [45]

His philanthropy and close friendship with Francis Spellman, Archbishop of New York (later Cardinal), made Kennedy invested as a knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, an honor that he shared with just a few dozen Americans. [ citation needed ]

According to Harvey Klemmer, who served as one of Kennedy's embassy aides, Kennedy habitually referred to Jews as "kikes or sheenies". Kennedy allegedly told Klemmer that "[some] individual Jews are all right, Harvey, but as a race they stink. They spoil everything they touch." [41] When Klemmer returned from a trip to Germany and reported the pattern of vandalism and assaults on Jews by Nazis, Kennedy responded, "Well, they brought it on themselves." [46]

On June 13, 1938, Kennedy met in London with Herbert von Dirksen, the German ambassador to the United Kingdom, who claimed upon his return to Berlin that Kennedy had told him that "it was not so much the fact that we want to get rid of the Jews that was so harmful to us, but rather the loud clamor with which we accompanied this purpose. [Kennedy] himself fully understood our Jewish policy." [47] Kennedy's main concern with such violent acts against German Jews as Kristallnacht was that they generated bad publicity in the West for the Nazi regime, a concern that he communicated in a letter to Charles Lindbergh. [48]

Kennedy had a close friendship with Viscountess Astor, and their correspondence is replete with anti-Semitic statements. [49] According to Edward Renehan:

As fiercely anti-Communist as they were anti-Semitic, Kennedy and Astor looked upon Adolf Hitler as a welcome solution to both of these "world problems" (Nancy's phrase). . . Kennedy replied that he expected the "Jew media" in the United States to become a problem, that "Jewish pundits in New York and Los Angeles" were already making noises contrived to "set a match to the fuse of the world". [50]

By August 1940, Kennedy worried that a third term for President Roosevelt would mean war. Laurence Leamer in The Kennedy Men: 1901–1963 reports: "Joe believed that Roosevelt, Churchill, the Jews, and their allies would manipulate America into approaching Armageddon." [51] Nevertheless, Kennedy supported Roosevelt's third term in return for Roosevelt's promise to support Joseph Kennedy Jr. in a run for Governor of Massachusetts in 1942. [52] However, even during the darkest months of World War II, Kennedy remained "more wary of" prominent American Jews, such as Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, than he was of Hitler. [53]

Kennedy told the reporter Joe Dinneen:

It is true that I have a low opinion of some Jews in public office and in private life. That does not mean that I. . believe they should be wiped off the face of the Earth. . Jews who take an unfair advantage of the fact that theirs is a persecuted race do not help much. . Publicizing unjust attacks upon the Jews may help to cure the injustice, but continually publicizing the whole problem only serves to keep it alive in the public mind.

Alliances Edit

Kennedy used his wealth and connections to build a national network of supporters that became the base for his sons' political careers. He especially concentrated on the Irish-American community in large cities, particularly Boston, New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and several New Jersey cities. [54] Kennedy also used Arthur Krock of The New York Times, America's most influential political columnist, for decades as a paid speechwriter and political advisor. [55]

A political conservative (John F. Kennedy once described his father as being to "the right of Herbert Hoover"), [56] Kennedy supported Richard Nixon, who had entered Congress with John in 1947. In 1960, Joseph Kennedy approached Nixon, praised his anti-Communism, and said "Dick, if my boy can't make it, I'm for you" for the presidential election that year. [57]

Alliance with Senator Joseph McCarthy Edit

Kennedy's close ties with Republican (GOP) Senator Joseph McCarthy strengthened his family's position among Irish Catholics, but weakened it among liberals who strongly opposed McCarthy. Even before McCarthy became famous in 1950, Kennedy had forged close ties with the Republican Senator. Kennedy often brought him to his family compound at Hyannis Port as a weekend house guest in the late 1940s. McCarthy at one point dated Patricia Kennedy. [58]

When McCarthy became a dominant voice of anti-Communism starting in 1950, Kennedy contributed thousands of dollars to McCarthy, and became one of his major supporters. In the Senate race of 1952, Kennedy apparently worked a deal so that McCarthy, a Republican, would not make campaign speeches for the GOP ticket in Massachusetts. In return, Congressman John F. Kennedy, running for the Senate seat, would not give any anti-McCarthy speeches that his liberal supporters wanted to hear. [58]

At Kennedy's urging in 1953, McCarthy hired Robert F. Kennedy (aged 27) as a senior staff member of the Senate's investigations subcommittee, which McCarthy chaired. In 1954, when the Senate was threatening to condemn McCarthy, Senator John Kennedy faced a dilemma. "How could I demand that Joe McCarthy be censured for things he did when my own brother was on his staff?" asked JFK. [58]

By 1954, Robert F. Kennedy and McCarthy's chief aide Roy Cohn had fallen out with each other, and Robert no longer worked for McCarthy. John Kennedy had a speech drafted calling for the censure of McCarthy, but never delivered it. When the Senate voted to censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954, Senator Kennedy was in a hospital and never indicated how he would cast his vote. Joe Kennedy strongly supported McCarthy to the end. [58]

Involvement in son's political careers Edit

Kennedy's connections and influence were turned into political capital for the political campaigns of sons John, Robert and Ted.

Kennedy had been consigned to the political shadows after his remarks during World War II ("Democracy is finished"), and he remained an intensely controversial figure among U.S. citizens because of his suspect business credentials, his Roman Catholicism, his opposition to Roosevelt's foreign policy, and his support for Joseph McCarthy. Although his own ambitions to achieve the White House were thwarted, Kennedy held out great hope for his eldest son, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., to seek the presidency. However, Joe Jr., who had become a U.S. Navy bomber pilot, was killed over the English Channel in August 1944 while undertaking Operation Anvil, a high-risk, new way to use heavy bombers to strike German weapon sites in France. After grieving over his dead son, Joe Sr. turned his attention to his second son, John, for a run for the presidency. [59]

Because of his own unpopularity, Kennedy's presence in John's 1960 presidential campaign had to be downplayed. However, Kennedy still drove the campaign behind the scenes. He played a central role in planning strategy, fundraising, and coalition and alliance building. Kennedy almost oversaw the entire operation, supervising spending, helping to select advertising agencies, and phoning local and state party leaders, newsmen, and business leaders. [ citation needed ]

When John F. Kennedy was asked about the level of involvement and influence that his father had held in his razor-thin presidential victory over Richard Nixon, he would joke that on the eve of the election his father had asked him the exact number of votes he would need to win: There was no way he was paying "for a landslide". Kennedy was one of four fathers (the other three being George Tryon Harding, Nathaniel Fillmore, and George Herbert Walker Bush) to live through the entire presidency of a son. [60]

Historian Richard J. Whalen describes Kennedy's influence on John F. Kennedy's policy decisions in his biography of Kennedy. Kennedy was influential in creating the Kennedy Cabinet (which included Robert Kennedy as Attorney General, although he had never argued or tried a case). [61]

In 1961, Kennedy suffered a stroke that placed limitations on his influence on his sons' political careers. [ citation needed ]

Joseph and Rose Kennedy had nine children (see table below). [62] Three of the Kennedys' sons attained distinguished political positions: John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and as 35th president of the United States (1961-1963), Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968) served as Attorney General (1961–64), and as a U.S. senator from New York (1965-1968), and Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy (1932–2009) served as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts (1962-2009). His eldest son Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (1915–1944) was groomed to be President but died on active duty in World War II on a dangerous experimental flying mission over the English Channel. One of the Kennedys' daughters, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics for disabled people, [63] while another, Jean Kennedy Smith, served as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. [64]

As Kennedy's business success expanded, he and his family kept homes around Boston and New York City the Cape Cod peninsula as well as Palm Beach. [59]

Kennedy engaged in numerous extramarital relationships, [65] including with actresses Gloria Swanson [6] [66] and Marlene Dietrich [67] and with his secretary, Janet DesRosiers Fontaine. [68] His relationship with Swanson, whose personal and business affairs he managed, was also an open secret in Hollywood. [69] [70]

Name Birth Death Marriage and children
Joseph Patrick "Joe" Kennedy Jr. July 25, 1915 August 12, 1944 Never married and had no children, but was once engaged to Athalia Ponsell
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy May 29, 1917 November 22, 1963 Married in 1953, to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, had four children, assassinated November 22, 1963,
Rose Marie "Rosemary" Kennedy September 13, 1918 January 7, 2005 Never married and had no children
Kathleen Agnes "Kick" Kennedy February 20, 1920 May 13, 1948 Married in 1944, to William Cavendish, never had children, died in plane crash, 1948.
Eunice Mary Kennedy July 10, 1921 August 11, 2009 Married in 1953, to Sargent Shriver, had five children
Patricia Helen "Pat" Kennedy May 6, 1924 September 17, 2006 Married in 1954, to English actor Peter Lawford, had four children divorced in 1966
Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy November 20, 1925 June 6, 1968 Married in 1950, to Ethel Skakel, had eleven children, assassinated June 1968,
Jean Ann Kennedy February 20, 1928 June 17, 2020 Married in 1956, to Stephen Smith, had two sons and adopted two daughters
Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy February 22, 1932 August 25, 2009 Married in 1958, to Joan Bennett, had three children divorced in 1982. Remarried in 1992 to Victoria Reggie had no children

Lobotomy of Rosemary Kennedy Edit

Kennedy requested that surgeons perform a lobotomy on his eldest daughter Rosemary in 1941. Various reasons for the operation have been given, but it left her permanently incapacitated. [71] [72] [73] He did not inform his wife of this decision until after the procedure was completed. [74] Rosemary's name "was never mentioned in the house", according to Janet DesRosiers Fontaine, Kennedy's secretary and mistress. [75]

The lobotomy took place in November 1941. [76] [77] James W. Watts, who carried out the procedure with Walter Freeman (both of George Washington University School of Medicine), described the procedure to author Ronald Kessler as follows:

We went through the top of the head, I think Rosemary was awake. She had a mild tranquilizer. I made a surgical incision in the brain through the skull. It was near the front. It was on both sides. We just made a small incision, no more than an inch." The instrument Dr. Watts used looked like a butter knife. He swung it up and down to cut brain tissue. "We put an instrument inside", he said. As Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman asked Rosemary some questions. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord's Prayer or sing "God Bless America" or count backward. "We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded." When Rosemary began to become incoherent, they stopped. [78]

Dr. Watts told Kessler that in his opinion, Rosemary had suffered not from mental retardation but rather from a form of depression. A review of all of the papers written by the two doctors confirmed Dr. Watts' declaration. All of the patients the two doctors lobotomized were diagnosed as having some form of mental disorder.[26] Dr. Bertram S. Brown, director of the National Institute of Mental Health who was previously an aide to President Kennedy, told Kessler that Joe Kennedy referred to his daughter Rosemary as mentally retarded rather than mentally ill in order to protect John's reputation for a presidential run, and that the family's "lack of support for mental illness is part of a lifelong family denial of what was really so". [71] [79] [80] [81]

It quickly became apparent that the procedure had not been successful. Kennedy's mental capacity diminished to that of a two-year-old child. She could not walk or speak intelligibly and was incontinent. [82]

Following the lobotomy, Rosemary was immediately institutionalized. [83] In 1949, she was relocated to Jefferson, Wisconsin, where she lived for the rest of her life on the grounds of the St. Coletta School for Exceptional Children (formerly known as "St. Coletta Institute for Backward Youth"). [84] Kennedy did not visit his daughter at the institution. [85] In Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, author Kate Clifford Larson stated that Rosemary's lobotomy was hidden from the family for twenty years. [86] In 1961, after Kennedy suffered a stroke that left him unable to speak, his children were made aware of Rosemary's location. [86] The lobotomy did not become public knowledge until 1987. [87] Rosemary Kennedy died from natural causes [88] on January 7, 2005, at the age of 86. [74]

Illness and death Edit

On December 19, 1961, at the age of 73, Kennedy suffered a stroke. He survived but was left paralyzed on his right side. Thereafter, he suffered from aphasia, which severely affected his ability to speak. He remained mentally alert, regained certain functions with therapy, and began walking with a cane. His speech also showed some improvement. [89] Kennedy began to experience excessive muscular weakness, which eventually required him to use a wheelchair. In 1964, Kennedy was taken to The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, a medical and rehabilitative center for those who have experienced brain injury. [89]

Kennedy's son Robert was assassinated on June 5, 1968. [90] In the aftermath of his son's death, Kennedy made his last public appearance when he, his wife, and son Ted made a filmed message to the country. [91] He died at home in Hyannis Port the following year on November 18, 1969. [92] He had outlived four of his children. [93] He was buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. Kennedy's widow Rose was buried next to him following her death in 1995, as was their daughter Rosemary in 2005. [94]

Kennedy plays a significant role as a character in Winston's War, Michael Dobbs' fictionalized account of the rise of Winston Churchill. In Richard Condon's thriller Winter Kills, Pa Keegan is a fictionalized version of Kennedy, and is portrayed by John Huston in the film version of that novel.

In the alternate history novel Fatherland by Robert Harris, set in 1964, the senior Kennedy—not his son John F. Kennedy—is president of the United States and about to arrive in Berlin to conclude a treaty with Adolf Hitler.


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