Black History: Special Delivery!!
Buck Franklin (1879-1960) was born in Oklahoma (Chickasaw Nation Indian Territory). Franklin began his law practice in the predominately white town of Ardmore, Oklahoma. He faced much racial prejudice and witnessed first hand the discrimination that ran rampant in the legal system. As a result, Franklin decided to focus his law practice in the African American community and relocated to Rentiesville, Oklahoma. There he married Mollie Franklin and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.
In 1921, racial tensions were at an all time high in Tulsa. Many of Tulsa’s black residents were affluent. The Greenwood District of Tulsa was one of the wealthiest enclaves of blacks in the south. It was known as Black Wall Street. Black Wall Street created a great deal of tension between Tulsa’s black and white communities. In May 1921 a black Tulsa resident, Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a white woman in an elevator named Sara Page. He was arrested. While at the court house a fight broke out between black and white residents. Over the course of 24 hours, the fight would escalate and become a one-day race riot. 300 people died and many of the towns black residents were jailed. Black Wall Street was reduced to ruins. Franklin and his family survived the riot. The City Council of Tulsa passed an ordinance forbidding Tulsa’s blacks to rebuild their neighborhoods that had been damaged in the riot. The City decided instead to rezone the area and make it a commercial area rather than a residential one. Buck Franklin lead the legal fight against this ordinance. He filed suit against the City of Tulsa before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Franklin was successful and as a result black residents were able to begin rebuilding their community.
Franklin chronicled his experience in an autobiography. However he would pass away 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”.