Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com. For personal or classroom use, users are invited users to download, print, photocopy, and distribute the images that are available online without prior written permission, provided that the files are not changed, the Smithsonian Institution copyright notice (where applicable) is included, and the source of the image is identified as the National Museum of the American Indian.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Grace F. Thorpe Collection, Box and Folder Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
The papers of sculptor, painter, and author Robert Smithson and sculptor, filmmaker, and earthworks artist Nancy Holt measure 18.9 linear feet and date from 1905 to 1987, with the bulk of the material dating from 1952 to 1987. Also included is Smithson's personal library of books, vinyl records, and magazine, measuring 48.4 linear feet. The papers consist of Smithson's biographical material; business and personal correspondence, much of it with artists; interview transcripts; extensive writings and project files; financial records; printed material; a scrapbook of clippings; holiday cards with original prints and sketches; photographic material; and artifacts. Also found are project files related to Nancy Holt's motion picture film Pine Barrens and her seminal environmental work of art Sun Tunnels, including a video documentary about Sun Tunnels.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of sculptor, painter, and author Robert Smithson and sculptor, filmmaker, and earthworks artist Nancy Holt measure 18.9 linear feet and date from 1905 to 1987, with the bulk of the material dating from 1952 to 1987. Also included is Smithson's personal library of books, vinyl records, and magazine, measuring 48.4 linear feet. The papers consist of Smithson's biographical material; business and personal correspondence, much of it with artists; interview transcripts; extensive writings and project files; financial records; printed material; a scrapbook of clippings; holiday cards with original prints and sketches; photographic material; and artifacts. Also found are project files related to Nancy Holt's film Pine Barrens and her seminal environmental work of art Sun Tunnels, including a video documentary about Sun Tunnels.
Biographical material includes Robert Smithson's curriculum vitae, personal identification and medical documents, eight engagement/day planners Smithson and Holt maintained from 1966 to 1973, and Smithson's funeral register.
Correspondence is primarily with Smithson's family, friends, fellow artists, and business associates discussing personal relationships, proposed art projects, and exhibitions. Correspondents of note include Carl Andre, the Dwan Gallery (Virginia Dwan), Dan Graham, Will Insley, Ray Johnson, Gyorgy Kepes, Sol Lewitt, Lucy Lippard, and Dennis Wheeler. There is also substantial correspondence received by Holt upon Smithson's death in 1973, and between Holt and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art regarding Smithson's retrospective exhibition in 1982.
There are nine interview transcripts with Smithson discussing his works and his general philosophy on art, and one transcript of the Andrew Dickson White Museum's Earth Art Symposium (1969) featuring the following artists: Mike Hiezer, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Neil Jenney, Gunther Uecker, Jan Dibbets, Richard Long, and Hans Haacke.
Writings are substantial and include 73 drafts of published and unpublished essays by Smithson on art, artists, and works in progress. The series also includes poems by Smithson, six notebooks containing notes and sketches by Smithson, and drafts of writings sent to Smithson and Holt by friends and colleagues, including Carl Andre, Terry Atkinson, Dan Flavin, Dan Graham, and Jack Thibeau.
Project files contain correspondence, project instructions, diagrams and sketches, research materials, photographic material, and maps related to over 50 of Smithson's artworks. These include concepts, proposed projects, sculptures, non-sites, and earthwork projects, including Spiral Jetty, Broken Circle, and Spiral Hill.
Personal business records include gallery related loan arrangements and receipts for miscellaneous art supplies. Financial records include tax forms and preparation documents, including cancelled checks, receipts, statements, and related correspondence.
Printed materials include books, clippings, and periodicals related to Smithson, either containing writings or sketches by him, or containing articles reviewing his work. There are also exhibition announcements and catalogs of Smithson's group and solo shows from 1959 to 1985.
The scrapbook contains clippings of Smithson's published articles from 1966 to 1973 with annotated shorthand notes.
Artwork consists of Christmas cards collaged by Smithson, and sketches by Smithson and Leo Valledor.
Photographic materials include prints and negatives of Smithson with friends, promotional Hollywood movie stills, and original prints and copyprints of other artists' artwork.
Artifacts consist of a paper bag silkscreened with a Campbell's soup can (Warhol), promotional buttons (N.E. Thing Co.), various organic materials, and two art kits.
Nancy Holt's papers consist of correspondence, a grant application, printed materials, and project files and audio visual material related to her motion picture film Pine Barrens (1975) and her seminal environmental work of art Sun Tunnels (1975).
The collection is arranged as 14 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1905-1974 (Box 1; 14 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1959-1987 (Boxes 1-2, OV 21; 1.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Interview Transcripts, 1966-1973 (Box 2; 11 folders)
Series 4: Writings, 1959-1975 (Boxes 2-3; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 5: Project Files, circa 1950s-1982 (Boxes 4-5, Boxes 17-18, OV 20, OV 22-26, OV 36, RD 28-30, RD 32-35; 6.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, circa 1967-1970s (Box 5; 4 folders)
Series 7: Financial Records, 1962-1972 (Box 6-7; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1955-1985 (Boxes 7-11, Box 18, RD 31; 5.6 linear feet)
Series 9: Scrapbook, 1966-1973 (Box 11, Box 16; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 10: Artwork, circa 1950s-1970s (Box 11; 4 folders)
Series 11: Photographs, circa 1950s-1970s (Box 11, Box 18; 5 folders)
Series 12: Artifacts, circa 1950s-1970s (Box 11, Box 14, OV 19; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 13: Nancy Holt Papers, circa 1960s-1980s (Box 12-13, 15, OV 27, FC 37-38; 1.9 linear feet)
Series 14: Robert Smithson Personal Library (Boxes 39-87; 48.4 linear feet)
Robert Smithson (1938-1973) was a sculptor, painter, author, and lecturer who was known as a pioneer of land and earthworks art, based primarily in New York City. Nancy Holt (1938-2014) was a land artist, conceptual artist, and filmmaker. Smithson and Holt were married from 1963 until Smithson's death in 1973.
Born in Passaic, New Jersey, Smithson expressed an early interest in art, enrolling in classes at the Brooklyn Museum School and the Art Student's League in New York while still attending high school. Smithson's early works were primarily paintings, drawings, and collages. In 1959, he exhibited his first solo show of paintings at the Artists' Gallery in New York and had his first solo international show in Rome with the Galleria George Lester in 1961.
During the early to mid-1960s, Smithson was perhaps better known as a writer and art critic, writing numerous essays and reviews for Arts Magazine and Artforum. He became affiliated with artists who were identified with the minimalist movement, such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Nancy Holt, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris and others. In 1963, Smithson married sculptor and filmmaker Nancy Holt and a year later started to create his first sculptural works. In 1966, Smithson joined the Dwan Gallery, whose owner Virginia Dwan was an enthusiastic supporter of his work.
Smithson's interest in land art began in the late 1960s while exploring industrial and quarry sites and observing the movement of earth and rocks. This resulted in a series of sculptures called "non-sites" consisting of earth and rocks collected from a specific site and installed in gallery space, often combined with photographs, maps, mirrors, or found materials. In September 1968, Smithson published the essay "A Sedimentation of the Mind: Earth Projects" in Artforum that promoted the work of the first wave of land art artists. Soon thereafter, he began creating his own large scale land art and earthworks.
From 1967 to 1973, Smithson's productivity was constant as he wrote, lectured, and participated in several solo and group shows a year, both at home and abroad. He explored narrative art as essay in "The Monuments of Passaic" and fully committed to his idea of visiting sites and using them as the basis for creating non-sites, Non-Site, Pine Barrens, (1968); incorporated and documented the use of mirrors at sites in Mirror Displacement, Cayuga Salt Mine Project (1968-1969); and created his first site-specific works through liquid pours of mud, asphalt, and concrete, including Asphalt Rundown (1969). In 1969, he also completed his first earth pour at Kent State University with his project Partially Buried Woodshed. Later that year, he created the sculptural artwork for which he is best known, Spiral Jetty (1969) on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. This was the first of his pieces to require the acquisition of land rights and earthmoving equipment, and would be followed two years later by Broken Circle and Spiral Hill in 1971.
On July 20, 1973, while surveying sites in Texas for the proposed Amarillo Ramp, Smithson died in a plane crash at the age of 35. Despite his early death, Smithson's writings and artwork had a major impact on many contemporary artists.
Nancy Holt began her career as a photographer and video artist. Today, Holt is most widely known for her large-scale environmental works, Sun Tunnels and Dark Star Park. Holt has also made a number of films and videos since the late 1960s, including Mono Lake (1968), East Coast, West Coast (1969), and Swamp (1971) in collaboration with her late husband Robert Smithson. Points of View: Clocktower (1974) features conversations between Lucy Lippard and Richard Serra, Liza Bear and Klaus Kertess, Carl Andre and Ruth Kligman and Bruce Brice and Tina Girouard. In 1978, she produced a film about her seminal work Sun Tunnels.
The Archives also holds several collections related to Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt, including an oral history interview with Robert Smithson conducted by Paul Cummings in 1972; an interview with Robert Smithson conducted by Tony Robbin in 1968; Robert Smithson letters to George B. Lester, 1960-1963; an oral history interviews with Nancy Holt conducted by Scott Gutterman in 1992 and Joyce Pomeroy Schwartz in 1993; and the Nancy Holt Estate records, circa 1960-2001.
The papers of Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt were donated by Nancy Holt in several accretions between 1986 and 2011.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
The Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, holds the intellectual property rights, including copyright, to all materials created by Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt with the exception of the following items: two holiday cards found in box 11, folders 22-23. For these two items, copyright held by Holt/Smithson Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Requests for permission to reproduce should be submitted to ARS.
Conceptual artists -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
50 Film reels (50 completed films and 1 film series; 110,600 feet of original film outtakes (51 hours); 412 hours of audiotape; 31 digital books)
22 Linear feet (Papers and photographs)
Patagonia (Argentina and Chile)
Documentary filmmaker Jorge Prelorán was best known for his intimate approach to ethnographic film, a style known as "ethnobiography." The majority of Prelorán's films were shot in rural areas of Argentina, particularly the Andean highlands and the Pampas (plains), often in communities of mixed Indian and Spanish heritage. Prelorán documented a wide range of subjects, including art, folk crafts, agriculture, ranching, markets, religious rituals and festivals, and social and cultural change. This collection contains edited films and videos, film outtakes, audio tapes, photographic prints and transparencies, digital books, correspondence, production files, scripts, project files, and press clippings spanning 1954-2008.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains edited films and videos, film outtakes, audio tapes, photographic prints and transparencies, digital books, correspondence, production files, scripts, project files, and press clippings spanning 1954-2008.
The majority of Prelorán's films were shot in rural areas of Argentina, particularly the Andean highlands and the Pampas (plains), often in communities of mixed Indian and Spanish heritage. Prelorán documented a wide range of subjects, including art, folk crafts, agriculture, ranching, markets, religious rituals and festivals, and social and cultural change. Several films focus on natural history and science. There are also a number of experimental and fiction films.
Prelorán formed close friendships with many of the subjects of his films and corresponded with them long after the films were completed. This is reflected in the paper records, as is Prelorán's wide circle of colleagues and collaborators, including anthropologists, musicians, animators, historians, painters, writers, photographers, current and former students at UCLA, and fellow filmmakers. The extensive collection of press clippings, screening notices, and festival catalogs documents Prelorán's influence in Argentina, Europe, and the United States.
In the series of digital books, Prelorán presents the personal stories of individuals involved in creative work. Some books feature subjects profiled in the films, updating or expanding on their stories.
This collection is arranged in 11 series: (1) Completed Films and Videos, 1954-circa 2008; (2) Film Outtakes, 1960s-1980s; (3) Audio, 1969-2008; (4) Correspondence, 1954-2005 (bulk 1967-1992); (5) Production Files, 1961-1998; (6) Project Files, 1967-1995; (7) UCLA, 1968-2005 (bulk 1980s); (8) Press Clippings, 1960-2005; (9) Photographs, 1961-2000; (10) Books, 1994-1998, undated; (11) Electronic Files, circa 2000-circa 2006
Documentary filmmaker Jorge Prelorán was best known for his intimate approach to ethnographic film, a style known as "ethnobiography." In films such as Hermógenes Cayo (Imaginero) (1970), Los Hijos de Zerda (Zerda's Children) (1974), and Zulay Frente al Siglo XXI (Zulay Facing the 21st Century) (1989), Prelorán's protagonists tell their personal stories, while also revealing the stories of their communities and cultures. Prelorán worked in Latin America and the United States, but primarily in his native country of Argentina. His career spanned from 1954 to 2008, including nearly twenty years as a film professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Prelorán was born May 28, 1933 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His father, an engineer, was Argentine and had studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he met his wife, an American. Prelorán grew up speaking both Spanish and English. Initially pursuing a career in architecture, he studied at the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires. He made his first film, Venganza, with neighborhood friends in Buenos Aires in 1954. The film won the Beginner's Festival of Cine Club Argentina that same year. Prelorán was accepted as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and studied architecture there for one year. In 1956 he withdrew from UC Berkeley and was drafted into the US Army. Prelorán served in West Germany until 1958. Upon his return he changed educational plans and began formal study of filmmaking, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Motion Pictures from UCLA in 1960.
Shortly before the end of his service in the US Army, Prelorán married Elsa Dondi, a former classmate from Buenos Aires. They lived together in Los Angeles until Elsa returned to Argentina for the birth of their daughter, Adriana, in 1961. The couple separated shortly thereafter.
Prelorán's professional career as a filmmaker began in 1961 with a commission from the Tinker Foundation of New York for a series of films on the Argentine gaucho. In the course of shooting for these films, Prelorán traveled extensively throughout Argentina, visiting many locations in Patagonia and in the northwest where he would later return to make many of his films. From 1963-1969, Prelorán was under contract at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán to produce educational films; he also produced a series of short films on Argentine folklife with support from Fondo Nacional de las Artes and under the mentorship of folklorist Augusto Raúl Cortazar, Ph.D.
In the late 1960s, Prelorán became involved with UCLA's Ethnographic Film Program and in 1970 he returned to UCLA as a lecturer for two semesters. Later that year he was a fellow at Harvard University's Film Study Center, where he produced the English-language version of Imaginero (Hermógenes Cayo). Prelorán was the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships, in 1971 and 1975, and used those opportunities to produce quite a number of films, including Damacio Caitruz (Araucanians of Ruca Choroy).
Prelorán remarried in 1972. His wife, Mabel Freddi, became a collaborator on his films. She wrote the screenplay for Mi Tia Nora (My Aunt Nora) (1983) and co-directed Zulay Frente al Siglo XXI (Zulay Facing the 21st Century) (1989), among other credited and un-credited roles. After the Argentine military coup of March 1976 and the disappearances of fellow filmmaker Raymundo Gleyzer and Mabel's niece, Haydee, the Preloráns became fearful for their own safety. They fled to the United States, a move that would become permanent. Prelorán accepted a position as associate professor at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television. He later joined the faculty as a tenured professor.
During his time at UCLA, Prelorán was twice selected as a Fulbright Scholar, in 1987 and 1994. He continued to produce films, including the Academy Award-nominated documentary short Luther Metke at 94 (1980) and the 7-hour natural history television series Patagonia (1992). After retiring in 1994, Prelorán continued to mentor film students as Professor Emeritus; he also began work in a new medium, creating a series of digital books, "Nos = Otros" ("Sages Amongst Us") (unpublished), featuring individuals engaged in creative and educational pursuits.
Prelorán died at his home in Culver City, CA at the age of 75 on March 28, 2009.
UCLA, School of Theater, Film and Television. "Jorge Prelorán 1933 - 2009." Obituary. Last modified March 31, 2009. Accessed April 1, 2009. http://tft.ucla.edu/news/obituary
Jorge Prelorán Collection. Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
Rivera, Fermín. Huellas Y Memoria de Jorge Prelorán. Documentary film. 2010.
Woo, Elaine."Jorge Prelorán dies at 75; Argentine filmmaker and former UCLA professor." Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2009. Web. 29 Apr 2009.
1933 -- Born May 28 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
1952-1954 -- Studies at the College of Architecture, Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires, Argentina
1954 -- Completes first film, Venganza, a fictional short
1955 -- Studies at the College of Architecture, University of California at Berkeley
1956-1958 -- Drafted into United States Army, stationed in Schwetzingen, West Germany
1959-1960 -- Earns Bachelor of Arts in Motion Pictures from UCLA
1961-1963 -- Produces films on the Argentine gaucho for the Tinker Foundation, New York
1963-1969 -- Produces films at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Argentina
1968 -- Attends the First International Colloquium on Ethnographic Film at UCLA
1969 -- Shoots film for The Warao People in Venezuela, under a grant from the Ford Foundation to the Ethnographic Film Program at UCLA
1970 -- Lecturer at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television Fellow at the Film Study Center, Harvard University
1971 -- Receives first Guggenheim Fellowship; completes several film projects in Argentina
1975 -- Receives second Guggenheim Fellowship; continues filming in Argentina
1976 -- Moves to United States Associate professor at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television
1978 -- Guest of Honor at the 2nd Margaret Mead Ethnographic Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History, New York
1980 -- Academy Award nominee for Luther Metke at 94
1985 -- Guest at the White House for a State Dinner in honor of Argentine President Raul Alfonsin
1986 -- Naturalized as a United States citizen
1987 -- First selection as Fulbright Scholar; begins production of the series Patagonia, en Busca de su Remoto Pasado
1994 -- Second selection as Fulbright Scholar; completes pre-production for the narrative feature film "Vairoletto: The Last Gaucho Outlaw" Retires from UCLA as professor emeritus
2009 -- Dies on March 28 in Culver City, California
The Human Studies Film Archives holds a copy of Fermín Rivera's edited biographical documentary film, Huellas y Memoria de Jorge Prelorán (HSFA 2015.1.27), as well as transcripts of interviews conducted with Jorge and Mabel Prelorán for the film (in Spanish).
The Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, holds the original film for four titles Prelorán produced for the Tinker Foundation (New York, NY). These are: The Llanero; The Gaucho of Corrientes; The Gaucho of the Pampas; and The Gaucho of Salta. The Ransom Center has both English and Spanish versions of these titles. These four films were preserved in 2010 and 2011 with funding from the Tinker Foundation. HSFA holds high quality video masters of all four titles. A fifth film produced for the Tinker Foundation, El Gaucho Argentino, Hoy (The Argentine Gaucho, Today), is held at the HSFA in its Spanish version only.
The Arthur Hall Collection at Temple University, Phildadelphia, Pennsylvania and Ile Ife Films in Belfast, Maine hold a copy of The Unvictorious One that differs from the two versions held at the HSFA.
This collection was donated to the Human Studies Film Archives in two accessions. The first accession, 2007-10, contains the edited films, outtakes, audio recordings, papers, and photographs and was donated by Jorge Prelorán. Materials had been stored at Prelorán's home office and home editing suite before they were packed by the processing archivist and sent to the HSFA. The second accession, 2011-07, contains the digital books and some additional photographs. This accession was donated by Mabel Prelorán. These materials had also been stored at Prelorán's home office and were sent to the HSFA by Mabel Prelorán.
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Various copyrights and restrictions on commercial use apply to the reproduction or publication of film, video, audio, photographs, and the digital books.
Access to the Jorge Prelorán collection requires an appointment.
The Guide to 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Oral History Collection documents the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as well as their journey to acknowledgment, justice, and restitution. This digital collection is an edited version of a larger collection created by Reginald Turner, Executive Director and Founder of The Tulsa Project, Inc. The collection consists of interview videos of individual survivors, their descendants, riot witnesses, historians, community supporters as well as the legal proceedings for U.S. government acknowledgement of the massacre and its subsequent devastation. This collection serves to bear witness to one of the most infamous episodes of American history, allowing those who lived through it to convey their experiences directly in their own words.
Biographical / Historical:
In 1921, one of the most devastating race massacres in American history occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From May 31 to June 1, mobs of white Tulsa residents ransacked, pillaged, bombed, and burned over 1,000 homes, businesses, and churches and murdered scores of African Americans in the Tulsa's Black community of Greenwood. The history of this event was hidden in plain sight for many generations, invariably vanished from or never placed in the history books across the country. Generations of Tulsa's universal community began to learn of this tragic event over the course of the last few decades through the efforts of the survivors and their supporters. The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Oral History Collection alongside the great work of The Tulsa Project, Inc. sheds light on a community of resilience grappling with complex questions of history and memory, justice and law, reparation and reconciliation.
In the decades that followed, just a partial list of cities exhibits the expansive and dizzying geographic and temporal scope of organized white violence that continued with little recourse or reproach well into twentieth century. Such cities include: Colfax, Louisiana (1873); Clinton, Mississippi (1875); Hamburg, South Carolina (1876); Thibodaux, Louisiana (1887); Omaha, Nebraska (1891); Wilmington, NC (1898); Atlanta, Georgia (1906); and East St. Louis, Missouri (1917). In the summer of 1919, the U.S. was rocked by the white supremacist violence and attacks against over thirty Black communities across the country. This period of overwhelming racial violence was dubbed, "Red Summer" and affected major Black communities in Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Clarksdale, Mississippi; and Omaha, Nebraska as well as many others. In these cities like Tulsa, mob violence devastated Black communities through the destruction of property and livelihoods.
The Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma is rooted in the history of westward expansion of the United States in early 19th century. Beginning in 1830s, the first African Americans came to the Oklahoma Territory with Native Americans along the Trail of Tears, the U. S government sanctioned removal of American Indians from their native territory across the country. Some of the African American travelers were enslaved while free Blacks traveled through treacherous conditions alongside white travelers. Dubbed the "Oil Capital of the World" and "Magic City," Tulsa experienced booming economic growth and prosperity during the early 1900s. During the era of post-Emancipation until the onset of the 20th century, African Americans were a part of a newer wave of migration that came to Tulsa from all over the country, including other parts of the Oklahoma Territory.
More than 50 all-Black settlements were established in Oklahoma territory during this era, including Tatums, Langston, Rentiesville, Boley, as well as Black communities of larger cities such as Muskogee, Okmulgee, and Tulsa. By 1900, African Americans composed seven percent of the combined Oklahoma and Indian Territories and five percent of Tulsa's population. In 1905, the Tulsa's Greenwood community was sold to African American settlers. Many of Greenwood's founding families were of mixed-race heritage as result of multiracial migration patterns and organic cultural adaptation to Oklahoma's natural resources and environment. The Perrymans, one of Tulsa's founding families, included Muskogee (Creek), African American, and white members.
In 1907, Oklahoma was admitted into the United States, and the legislature immediately began implementing restrictive race laws. Many mixed-race families lived in the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1800s. But dividing lines between the races were drawn more sharply after Oklahoma became a state. Oklahoma had one of the strictest sets of Jim Crow laws that divided the country, especially in Tulsa. Black Tulsans formed their community along Greenwood and Archer streets and quickly began to thrive as homes, churches and businesses were built and further developed. The community took shape with the construction and proliferation of African American owned cafes, grocery stores, beauty parlors, movie theaters, and dentist, lawyers, and doctor offices. By close of World War I, 10,000 individuals lived in Tulsa's Greenwood District, considered to be one of the most prosperous African American communities in America at the time. Educator, activist, and statesman Booker T. Washington dubbed the district, "Negro Wall Street." Later coined as "Black Wall Street" in the 1950s as scholarship began developing around the massacre.
After World War I, Black veterans returned to seek a "double victory" by securing freedom and equality at home, striking fear among white supremacists. This fear left white Tulsans blaming the prosperity of "Black Wall Street" for the lack to employment opportunities and other misfortunes among the white community. Tulsa city founder and prominent businessman, W. Tate Brady, despite his support of African American financial independence, was a member of white supremacy terrorist group, the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) as well as an active member in the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. A resolute white supremacist, Brady's mansion's design was inspired by the Virginia home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He welcomed KKK founder, Nathan Bedford Forrest to that same home in 1915. It was Brady's active membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans that brought the organization's 28th annual convention to the city in 1918. The latter circumstances along with the ongoing racial tensions set the stage for 1921 massacre.
On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old African American shoe shiner was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old white woman, Sarah Page. Rowland went inside the Drexel Building to use the restroom, the only bathroom allowed to African Americans in downtown Tulsa. Page was an elevator operator in the building. It is unclear if Rowland tripped or the elevator stopped suddenly, but he had physical contact with Page. Page screamed assault and a scared Rowland immediately fled. The next morning on May 31, Rowland was arrested and jailed in the city's courthouse. Later that afternoon, the city's most popular newspaper, Tulsa Tribune printed the story, "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator" that claimed Rowland raped Page. Also printed was an editorial with the title, "To Lynch Negro Tonight," which no doubt influenced the rumors of a possible lynching of Rowland as the evening approached.
A large mob of thousands continued to grow over the course of the night outside the courthouse. African American WWI veterans and other members of the Greenwood community began to set up defenses outside the courthouse in order to protect Rowland. Tensions rose and soon an individual fight broke out and a gun was fired. The now weaponized white mob began to move about Greenwood armed with torches, guns, and other weaponry. Some survivors recall aerial bombs released overhead from small planes. The terror was directed at every visible African American in the vicinity, many fled for their lives while their homes and livelihoods were demolished. Historical research has not rendered an accurate number of lives lost in the massacre; it is believed that over 300 African Americans were murdered. Over 35 blocks of homes and businesses were destroyed with damages estimated to be over 1.5 million dollars.
On June 1st, the Oklahoma National Guard arrived, and martial law was declared. They arrested over 6,000 African Americans including children and illegally held them in detention centers throughout Tulsa. They were only released if a white person named them as an employee. Martial law ended on June 3rd, but African Americans were required to carry "green cards" once released from the detention centers as a mechanism to the police the Black population. The next week, Oklahoma governor James B.A. Robertson ordered an inquiry into the massacre. Only 85 people were indicted, mostly African Americans citizens. Rowland was released from jail and not charged for any crimes. Page recanted her claim as well.
Residents of Greenwood filed over 1400 lawsuits for damaged property. Insurance companies denied all claims based on a "riot clause." 1,000 Black Tulsans were forced to live in tents provided by the Red Cross from 1921-1922 because their homes were demolished. Historians estimate that over 700 families left Tulsa and never returned. However, many stayed and worked to rebuild the Greenwood community but experienced great difficulty as the city government actively tried to prevent African Americans from returning to their homes. Zoning regulations were put into effect that would make Greenwood only a commercial area, making it virtually impossible to live there. B.C. Franklin, businessman and father of historian John Hope Franklin, led the charge and filed a suit against the City of Tulsa before the Oklahoma Supreme Court and won, allowing Greenwood to rebuild.
Dozens of Black-owned businesses were rebuilt in Greenwood within a year of the riot, and hundreds more followed over the next three decades. The Oklahoma Eagle newspaper founded in 1922, replacing the community's former Black newspaper, The Tulsa Star that was destroyed by the riot. The Oklahoma Eagle, founded directly after the massacre, reported on African American community, as well as all facets of the massacre, since white newspapers refused to acknowledge the incident. In 1925, in a display of courage, the National Negro Business League held its 26th annual convention in Greenwood. By the 1950s, Greenwood was a thriving Black community despite racial segregation and inequality. Greenwood's mid-century renaissance was a rare occurrence as employment opportunities and fair treatment outside of the Greenwood remained limited. The Tulsa NAACP chapter, along with other activist groups, was formed to fight inequality and racism in wider Tulsa. Despite advances of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, redlining and urban renewal projects dwindled the former Greenwood improvements leaving the area and its residents impoverished and highly segregated.
After suffering decades of aftereffects from the massacre, Tulsa's African American community demanded justice and reparations from the state of Oklahoma and the U.S. government. In 1997, African American state lawmakers, Representative Don Ross and Senator Maxine Horner, co-sponsored an Oklahoma House Bill to create the Tulsa Race Riot Commission. The Commission was tasked with finding survivors and recording their testimony, gaining accurate accounts of property losses and values, and then make recommendations for reparations. In addition, they worked with forensic anthropologists and archeologists tasked with locating mass graves of massacre victims. In 2001, the committee concluded that each survivor should receive $200,000 and up to $100,000 in property claims. Unfortunately, these recommendations were not passed leaving survivors and descendants with little prospects for restitution.
In 2003, over 200 Tulsa massacre survivors filed a suit against the state of Oklahoma in the case, Alexander, et al., v. Oklahoma, et al. Survivors and their descendants served as plaintiffs and recounted their experiences during and after the massacre. The legal team was led by esteemed lawyer and educator Charles Ogletree and celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran. The suit demanded restitution for the damages and injuries done by the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa. The main argument declared violations of the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution including "deprivation of life and liberty [and property] and the privileges and immunities of United States citizenship". In addition, plaintiffs wanted to establish a scholarship fund to ensure future generations learn the history of the massacre for years to come. The judge ruled against the survivors, claiming that the statute of limitations had passed. In 2005, the lawyers tried yet again for justice by bringing the case to the U. S. Supreme Court, but the court declined to hear the appeal. A few survivors were given the opportunity to speak at a briefing in front of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and other leaders on Capitol Hill, the same year with no action taken.
Over the years, Tulsa cultural institutions and organizations were developed to preserve the legacy of the African American community in Greenwood, Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma. The Greenwood Cultural Center and Mabel B. Little House have showcased the heritage of the community since the 1990s. In 2008, lawyer and filmmaker, Reginald Turner founded The Tulsa Project, Inc., a non-profit group committed to raising funds and awareness on behalf of massacre survivors and their descendants. The same year, Turner filmed interviews of massacre survivors that were later compiled in a documentary entitled, "Before They Die!" The interviews took place from 2004 to 2007 and featured survivors' efforts for justice, government hearings, and legal proceedings as well as Tulsa Commission meetings. The film's sales go towards compensating survivors and serve as an educational tool exhibited in schools, churches, and civic organizations around the country. In 2010, the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park opened in Greenwood to help memorialize the massacre survivors and educate the community. In 2018, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum called for the opening another investigation into the location of mass graves. In 2019, the Tulsa Race Massacre was added to the Oklahoma Education department curriculum and taught in classrooms.
As the massacre approaches its 100th anniversary in 2021, there are continuing advances for greater education about the massacre and the restitution of justice for the victims, survivors, and descendants of the one of the darkest times in American history.
1900 -- African Americans composed seven percent of Oklahoma territory and five percent of the Tulsa population.
1905 -- The Greenwood area in Tulsa was sold to African American Settlers.
1907 -- Oklahoma was made a state.
1917-1918 -- World War I veterans returned home seeking freedom and equality. In 1918, Tulsa hosted the 28th Annual Sons of the Confederacy Convention.
1919 -- "Red Summer," Over 30 race riots occurred over the course of 10 months in states across America.
1920 -- The wealth and prosperity of the Greenwood community, nicknamed "Black Wall Street," led to it to becoming one of the most financially prosperous African American communities in America.
1921: Tulsa Race Riot also known Tulsa Race Massacre takes place from May 30th to June 1st, in the Greenwood community of Tulsa. -- May 30: Dick Rowland, an African American shoe shiner is accused of assaulting Sarah Page, a white elevator operator. May 31: Rowland was arrested and brought to the courthouse jail. Afternoon: The Tulsa Tribune printed a story, "Nab Negro for Attacking Girl in Elevator" that Rowland raped Page and printed the editorial, "To Lynch Negro Tonight." 4:00 pm: Talk and rumors of lynching Rowland had spread. Police and Fire commissions J.M. Adkison phoned to warn Sheriff Willard McCullough of a possible incident. 7:30: A large white mob, numbering in the hundreds, gathered at the courthouse demanding Rowland be released to them. 9:30 pm: The mob had grown to two thousand. Members of the Greenwood community, many World War I veterans, set up defenses at the courthouse in order to protect Rowland from any impending violence from the mob. 10:00 pm: A fight broke out and a gun was fired. The mob began attacking and shooting all African Americans. June 1 12:00-1:30 am: Gunfire occurred between the white and African American commercial businesses across Fisco yards. 1:00-4:00 am: Over 35 blocks were destroyed, including 1200 homes, and an estimated 300 African Americans were murdered. However, the exact number is unknown. 9:00 am: The Oklahoma National Guard arrived. 11:30 am: Government declared martial law, by this point most of the fighting had already stopped. The final altercation occurred at Noon when the mob fired on African Americans near the Santa Fe railroad tracks. The National guard gathered and arrested nearly all the Greenwood residents, over 6000, detaining them in the Convention Center, sports arenas, and fairgrounds. 6:00 pm: All businesses were ordered to close, and a curfew was put into effect beginning at 7:00. June 3: Martial law ended. African Americans were required to carry "green cards" to leave the detention centers until July. June 8-20: Governor James B. A. Robertson ordered an inquiry of events by a Grand Jury examining the role of the police and sheriff departments. The all-white jury indicted over 85 people, the majority African American, for rioting and illegally carrying weapons. Five city police officers, including the Tulsa Chief of Police, John Gustafson, were also indicted and later fired. June 8-July 30: 1400 lawsuits were filed by African Americans for damaged commercial and/or personal property. The insurance companies invoked a "riot clause" that dismissed almost all the claims. Rowland was released and was not charged for any crime.
1922 -- Mary E. Jones Parrish was hired by the Inter-Racial Commission to write an account of the Race Riot. She was a teacher and journalist living with her daughter in Tulsa at the time of the massacre. Parrish interviewed survivors of the riot, collecting oral histories, photographs and a listing of property loses, publishing her findings in Events of the Tulsa Disaster. This was the first book published about the race riot. A large reconstruction effort began in Greenwood, and 80 businesses opened.
1925 -- National Negro Business League holds national convention in Tulsa, celebrating the rebuilding of Greenwood.
1931 -- Buck Colbert Franklin writes an unpublished memoir of the massacre entitled: The Tulsa Riot and Three of its Victims. It was later published by his son, John Hope Franklin and grandson, John W. Franklin in 1997.
1946 -- The first general history of the riot was published by Loren L. Gill, from the University of Tulsa. Although conducting many oral histories and research, some of his conclusions were later found to be incorrect.
1975 -- The Tulsa Race War of 1921 by Rudia M. Halliburton, Jr. was published. Halliburton was a professor at Northeastern State University and his work featured a collection of photographs, many from his students, of the riot.
1997 -- The Tulsa Race Riot Commission is established to study the riot and recommended reparations for survivors and their descendants. The city didn't comply.
1998 -- The Commission recommends archeological search for mass graves. This was approved in February 1999. A potential mass grave was found in Oaklawn Cemetery.
2003 -- Court case, Alexander, et al., v. Oklahoma, et al, was filed by over 200 survivors of the massacre. The suit was denied because the statute of limitations had passed.
2005 -- The survivors and lawyers attempted to repeal the decision in the Supreme Court, but the Court decided not to accept a case.
2010 -- John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park opened in Greenwood to help memorialize and educate the community about the race massacre.
Acquired as a gift from The Tulsa Project, Inc. (Reginald Turner, J.D.Clement & The Lomax Company).
This collection contains an unpublished documentary film shot on May 12, 1992 that depicts an interview with artist Allan Houser [Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache (New Mexico)] discussing his remembrances of painting murals at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, DC in 1939-1940. The film was shot by Victor Romero (Isleta Pueblo) and Christine Romero.
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains an unpublished documentary film that was shot by filmmakers Victor Romero (Isleta Pueblo) and Christine Romero, which depicts an interview with artist Allan Houser [Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache (New Mexico)]. The footage was shot on May 12, 1992 in the Department of the Interior penthouse in Washington, DC with Houser providing remembrances of his life and his perspective of painting murals there in 1939-1940 as part of the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture public art program. In the documentary, Houser views the murals for the first time since he painted them 50 years before and recalls his experiences with fellow artists- Velino Shije Herrera (Zia Pueblo), Gerald Nailor [Diné (Navajo)], and Woody Crumbo (Potawatomi)- who were painting their own murals in the penthouse at the same time. At the time of filming, the penthouse was closed and off-limits and the murals were about to undergo restoration.
The materials in this collection include six 16mm processed film reels; three 1/4" sound reels; three BetacamSP transfers of reels 1 through 6; a BetacamSP master of a 2:30 promo edit; a BetacamSP transfer of music by David Spotted Eagle licensed for the promo; an interview transcript; a log of avid bins; a disc of avid bins; and other textual documents.
Victor E. Romero served as the Producer, Christine Solinski Romero as Director, Gary Geboy as Cinematographer, and Haven McKinney as the Audio Recordist. Unfortunately, the Kodak film stock they used was defective and the footage turned out grainy, while the audio of the interview turned out clear. Subsequently, the intended documentary about the restoration of the murals was not completed other than a short demo reel.
Materials are arranged by media.
Allan Houser and the Department of the Interior Murals:
Allan Houser is considered one of the most renown Native American painters and sculptors of the 20th century. Born Allan Capron Houser (originally Haozous) on June 30, 1914 near Apache, Oklahoma, Houser was a member of the Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache tribe.
He left Oklahoma in 1934 to study painting with Dorothy Dunn at her Santa Fe Indian School and remained a student there until 1938. In addition to painting murals at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. in 1939, he also painted murals for the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco and the New York World's Fair.
In 1940, Houser studied with Swedish artist Olle Nordmark at the Fort Sill Indian School art program and was encouraged to take up sculpture. Eight years later, the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas commissioned his first sculpture, Comrades in the Mourning.
Houser taught art at Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah beginning in 1952 and left in 1962 to teach sculpture at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He retired from academic life in 1975. Allan Houser died in Santa Fe in 1994.
The murals that are depicted in this documentary were commissioned by the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture public art program, which was often referred to as the "Section." Created in 1934 during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, the program was designed to increase employment for artists. The Section artists were commissioned to create art to decorate public buildings often in the form of murals or reliefs. At the Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, DC, six artists were commissioned from five tribes including artists Velino Shije Herrera (Ma Pe Wi [Red Bird]), Zia Pueblo, 1902-1973; Gerald Nailor (To Yah), Diné (Navajo), 1917-1952; and Woody Crumbo (Woodrow Wilson Crumbo), Potawatomi [Oklahoma], 1912-1989. The Section program was discontinued in 1943.
Victor and Christine Romero:
Victor Eugene Romero (Pueblo of Isleta) is a graduate of New Mexico State University (BA, Journalism and Mass Communications, 1976). Following a stint as an independent video producer, Victor transitioned to a career at the U.S. Census Bureau, including varied service as manager of video/photo/radio production, and team leader for promotions and branding initiatives. His high-level contributions feature extensive work on Census 1990, 2000, 2010, 2020.
Christine Solinski Romero is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (BS, Radio-TV-Film, 1976). Her extensive documentary production credits as Producer, Director, Editor include programs for PBS, National Geographic Television, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian Channel, and an award-winning independent documentary feature, Besa: The Promise, the story of Albanians Muslims who protected refugee Jews during the Holocaust. In 2012, Christine transitioned to a career as a Yoga Instructor and Therapist.
Gift of Victor and Christine Romero, 2019.
Access to the media materials in this collection are closed until the materials have been digitized. Textual materials are available to view for reference purposes only. Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Victor and Christine Romero film of Allan Houser, box # and folder #, NMAI.AC.401; National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center, Smithsonian Institution.