© 2023 Public Radio Tulsa
800 South Tucker Drive
Tulsa, OK 74104
(918) 631-2577

A listener-supported service of The University of Tulsa
classical 88.7 | public radio 89.5
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Commander Apologizes For Oklahoma National Guard's Role In Tulsa Race Massacre

Matt Trotter
Oklahoma National Guard Adjutant Gen. Michael Thompson gives a medal to 100-year-old Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Hughes Van Ellis on Monday. Thompson apologized to Ellis and his sister, 107-year-old Viola Fletcher, for the guard's role in the massacre.

The Oklahoma National Guard's first Black commander apologized Monday for their role in the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Speaking at a soil collection ceremony to memorialize unknown victims of the massacre, Adjutant Gen. Michael Thompson said he's proud of the uniform he's worn for 37 years, but 100 years ago wasn't the guard's proudest day.

Thompson took a moment to regain his composure before continuing.

"We can debate what the guard did 100 years ago, but there's no room for debate for what the guard did not do. And what the guard didn't do is protect this community," Thompson said.

As white mobs laid siege to Greenwood on May 31, 1921, units spent most of the night protecting a white community from a rumored Black counterattack, which ultimately never happened. They did not stop Black homes and businesses from being looted, burned and destroyed.

"And we didn’t stop you from fleeing here for your life. And some people never returned. So, because I am the adjutant general today and I do represent the guard, and you are here as representatives of that horrific event, I want to give you my heartfelt and most sincere apology for our unwillingness to do the right thing 100 years ago," Thompson said.

Guardsmen also took Greenwood residents to internment camps. Some were held for more than a week.

Thompson, who was named the guard's commander in 2017, said he didn't hear about the massacre until he was an adult.

Related Content