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Tulsa Race Massacre: Reflections on the Role the Cathedral Played Then and Now

Editor’s Note: This article was published by the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic, and is reprinted with permission.

TULSA, Okla. — At the end of May, our local community commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Sparked by the false accusation that a young black man had sexually assaulted a white woman, the racial violence that unfolded between the night of May 31 and the early morning of June 1, 1921, left much of the thriving “Black Wall Street” neighborhood of Greenwood in ashes. In addition to the 10,000 Tulsans left homeless, close to a thousand residents were seriously injured and hundreds dead. Nearly all of the victims were members of the Greenwood community.

Under the steadfast guidance of Father Heiring, Holy Family Cathedral became a place of refuge for many throughout the terrible events of that night. The eyewitness accounts of one cathedral parishioner, Clyde Joseph Eddy, continue to serve as a memorial to both the darkness of this historic tragedy and the light to be found in those who had the courage to proclaim the Gospel message of love amid such hatred and heartbreak. Although Clyde Eddy was only 10 years old when the Tulsa Race Massacre took place, the experience remained etched in his memory throughout his whole life.

“Grandpa had talked to us about the race riot since we were little kids, so we grew up knowing about it,” says Clyde’s grandson, Matt Buckendorf. “The night it happened, the diocese was hosting an event at the Brady Theater—what is now the Tulsa Theater — and when the riot broke out, Father Heiring had the house lights come on and told everyone something terrible was going on, and that they should go home and stay safe. That always stuck in my mind as a kid, imagining Father there saying that something terrible was happening.

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