Police Chief Donates Rare Picture Of Tulsa’s First African-American Officer

Tuesday, May 31st 2016, 7:47 pm
By: News On 6

On the 95th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot, Tulsa's police chief honored the city's history by donating a rare, previously unseen photograph of Tulsa's first African American police officer to the Greenwood Culture Center.

While Officer Barney Cleaver served the community more than a century ago, his presence on the police force was that of a trailblazer, and his legacy gives hope the community can heal from tragedies of the past.

The Tulsa Police Department, around the turn of the 20th Century, isn't always remembered for ‘just’ actions.

"The police department did not do their job then, they just didn't," said Police Chief Chuck Jordan.

But Cleaver pioneered a presence and voice more than 100 years ago as the first African-American police officer in Tulsa.

"At a time when there weren't a lot of black police officers in the country, much less in the city of Tulsa," Jordan said.

While stories of his service have been passed down through generations, most people never knew what he looked like.

"Always heard of Barney Cleaver," Detective Corey Myers said. “Never seen a picture of him."

Then, Jordan discovered a portrait of Cleaver at the Vintage Tulsa show - a picture he knew Tulsa needed to preserve.

"This was a good, positive piece of history that I wanted to donate to the Cultural Center so we could have representation up here as well," he said.

The executive director of the Greenwood Cultural Center, Frances Jordan-Rakestraw, hopes the picture helps educate future generations about Cleaver's dedication and the community's struggles with equality.

He said, "We have to talk about it so there's no chance of it happening again."

"No matter what mountains are in your way, or what mountains you perceive to be in your way, you got to fight through them, and that's why he did," Myers said.

Jordan said, in addition to displaying Cleaver's picture at the Cultural Center, copies will also be hung at all Tulsa police divisions.