Tulsa Tribune May 31, 1921


On the first day of the Tulsa Massacre, the Tulsa Tribune published a story with the headline “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in an Elevator”.

Jenkin “Jenk” Jones Jr. was the last publisher and editor of the Tulsa Tribune which closed September 30, 1992. In his oral history, Jenk talks about the headline that has been seen as a contributing factor in the Race Massacre.

“Well, I hadn’t seen that headline till my sister brought it up to me a few weeks ago. But if that’s an inflammatory headline I don’t know journalism, because it was very much the style of the day in newspapers everywhere. You wanted a strong, active verb early on and they used the term “Negro,” which is what blacks generally were known as in those days. I never saw the story.

I do know that my grandparents hid black people in their home during the Race Riot. I also know that my grandfather, when he was the publisher in Madison, had taken Booker T. Washington into his home when all the hotels in that so-called “liberal city” refused to serve him. And, of course, my great grandfather, at considerable risk, fought to free the black slaves as part of Mr. Lincoln’s army. So I think there’s a family history there that is a counter to any sense of racism.

I do know also that when the riots hit a lot of American cities in the ’60s, and Tulsa was at a very, very tense point, my dad did something I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do, and that was, he ran a front page editorial that just said, “Let’s cool it.” And it was a commonsense thing. “Let’s back off from this. We’ve got no reason to have problems. We can discuss any differences we’ve got.” And it just relieved the pressure. It was almost like a front coming through and chasing the thunderstorms out.

So I think the family has a pretty good record. We were also among the first newspapers in Oklahoma to employ black reporters and photographers. I don’t know the particulars, there’s been talk of an inflammatory editorial but nobody has ever come up with one. You know, there’s many old copies of newspapers that lie around, something would have come up.”

You can hear the rest of Chapter 3 – “May 31, 1921” here.

Jenk Jones’ oral history, which was recorded in 2011, is about his family and the publishing of the Tulsa Tribune. He is a very good historian and you will gain great information by listening to his entire story but in particular we urge you to listen to Chapter 3.