Permanent Black Man
Buck Colbert Franklin is known as the lawyer who won the court victory for black residents after the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots.
Franklin was born in 1879 and was named after his grandfather, who had been an enslaved African of a Chickasaw family in Oklahoma. After completing his studies, he opened up his law practice in the predominately white town of Ardmore, Oklahoma. However, the racial tension at the time was so strong, he decided to relocate to Tulsa and focus his practice on helping people in the black communities.
The Greenwood District of Tulsa was one of the wealthiest enclaves of blacks in the south, known as Black Wall Street. After the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots that destroyed the region, he led the legal fight against the City Council of Tulsa, who passed an ordinance keeping Tulsa’s blacks from rebuilding the neighborhoods that had been affected. Instead, the city had plans to rezone the area and make it into a commercial area.
Franklin filed suit against the city of Tulsa before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. His efforts were successful; due to his actions. black residents were able to begin rebuilding their community.
Franklin penned his experience in an autobiography. However, he died in 1960 before the book was published. John Hope Franklin, one of his four children, went on to become a prominent historian and civil rights advocate. John Hope Franklin and his son would later finish Buck Franklin’s autobiography, “My Life and An Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin.
****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 manuscript was authored by noted Oklahoma attorney Buck Colbert Franklin.
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 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.
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 fire from the top.
>>>>A Long-Lost Manuscript Contains a Searing Eyewitness Account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921
An Oklahoma lawyer details the attack by hundreds of whites on the thriving black neighborhood where hundreds died 95 years ago
By Allison Keyes