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In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom.
It is alleged sometime around or after 4 pm, 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 restroom, which was restricted to blacks.
Although the United States Supreme Court declared the ordinance unconstitutional the next year, it remained on the books.
As returning veterans tried to reenter the labor market following World War I, social tension and anti-black sentiment increased in cities where job competition was high.
Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place." With the number of survivors declining, in 1996, the 75th anniversary of the riot, a bi-partisan group in the state legislature authorized formation of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
The two likely knew each other at least by sight, as this building was the only one nearby with a restroom which Rowland had express permission to use, and the elevator operated by Page was the only one in the building.The Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 39 dead, but the American Red Cross estimated 300, a number supported by historians since then.The riot began over a Memorial Day weekend after a young black man was accused of raping a young white female elevator operator at a commercial building.After he was taken into custody, rumors raced through the black community that he was at risk of being lynched.A group of armed African-American men rushed to the police station where the young suspect was held and a white crowd had gathered, to prevent a lynching.