A CASE FOR RICHARD & SARAH

by John Hamlin

1- The angry white mob was well into destroying the Greenwood neighborhood by the time Sarah eventually spoke through an attorney saying Dick Roland had done nothing wrong. After which, the accepted story was that Rowland had tripped on the uneven elevator floor and grabbed her arm to brace his fall. In 1921 Tulsa, a white girl would have placed herself in jeopardy to admit she was in a romantic relationship with a Negro.

2- It’s easy to imagine that Sarah Paige was pressured to press charges by the Police and adults in positions of authority. She was 17, some reports say as young as 15. And yet, she did not press charges.  

3- Dick was a shoeshine boy. It was Memorial Day. The Business District was closed. There were no shoes to shine. And the parade was either canceled or fizzled out due to rain  But he was there on that main street where he normally worked. Why?

4- Sarah was working as an elevator attendant in The Drexel Building with stores like Renberg's which were closed for the holiday. The only other person in the building was a security guard. Why was Sarah working on this holiday?

5- The fourth-floor bathroom in the building which Sarah worked was the only restroom on that street available to "colored folks." Dick worked that street regularly. This wasn’t their first encounter. He would have known her and seen her regularly. 
 

6- Dick's coworker, Robert Fairchild, said he believed they could’ve been going together.

7- Another witness said the same. 

8-  Dick Rowland's mother, Damie Rowland, said "I told the police that Richard was romantic with that girl."

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9-  Attorneys and businessmen whose shoes Rowland shined spoke highly of Dick Rowland, saying he didn’t have it in him to act with such behavior.

10- Years later, Damie Rowland stated that her son Dick had written her saying that he saw Sarah still "bumming around Kansas City," indicating they were familiar.

11- Because I believe it’s established they knew each other, I don’t think her screaming makes sense IF he grabbed her arm to break his fall. People buy into this explanation because they haven’t considered that they knew each other.  They are projecting that she would have been scared when a black man who was a stranger grabbed her arm. 

Their romance was incendiary. It was taboo. A microcosm of what was wrong with society in 1921 and how not nearly enough has changed in the 100 years since.