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Oklahoma To Incorporate 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Into Statewide School Curriculum

Martial law in Tulsa, Oklahoma after the race riots. Injured and wounded prisoners are being taken to hospital by National guardsmen.  (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Martial law in Tulsa, Oklahoma after the race riots. Injured and wounded prisoners are being taken to hospital by National guardsmen. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Want to learn more about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre? The Oklahoma Historical Society has commissioned recorded interviews with survivors of the massacre, available here: Tape 1, Tape 2 and Tape 3

Oklahoma announces the state will incorporate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre into the statewide school curriculum. We’ll learn why.


Jay Connor, staff writer at The Root. Founder and co-host of “The Extraordinary Negroes” podcast. (@TheExtraNegroes)

Hannibal B. Johnson, education committee chair of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission. Author of “Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District.”

Joe Nelson, AP language and composition teacher at Will Rogers College High School in Tulsa, Okla.

Watch on YouTube.

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We asked listeners and Oklahomans what the inclusion of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre into Oklahoma’s statewide school curriculum means to them. Here are some answers.

From The Reading List

The Root: “The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Will Officially Become a Part of Oklahoma School Curriculum Beginning in the Fall” — “Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., I distinctly remember learning all about the Sooner State’s transition from a Native American territory to becoming the 46th state in 1907, Oklahoma City supplanting Guthrie as the state’s capital in 1910 and about the land runs that began in 1889, transforming acres of public land into bustling farms and cities.

“What I don’t recall ever being taught in school was anything to do with the infamous Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, in which Tulsa’s affluent Greenwood District—more commonly known as Black Wall Street—was burned to the ground by a horde of racist white folks, killing hundreds of innocent black people in the process and injuring arguably even more.

“That responsibility, much like other unsavory parts of American history, fell on my parents. How else could they ensure that our past never becomes our present?”

Tulsa World: “Hannibal B. Johnson: Opinion: As 1921’s centennial nears, there is a reason for hope in Tulsa’s effort to face its painful history positively” — “In just a couple of years, the eyes of the world will be trained on us. Are we ready?

“The essential question for Tulsa in 2021, the 100th anniversary of a defining and defiling moment in our history, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot/Race Massacre, will be: ‘What has Tulsa done in the interim between 1921 and 2021 to advance race relations; to build a unified, just community?’

“My forthcoming book, ‘Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples with its Historical Racial Trauma,’ answers that question, though perhaps not in a wholly satisfactory way. We — Tulsans — continue to make progress — sometimes slowly, often incrementally, but advancements nonetheless.”

The New York Times: “Opinion: Shifting Collective Memory in Tulsa” — “As a native Tulsan, I felt like I was dreaming when I saw a hologram of Henry Louis Gates Jr. greeting visitors at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, Okla. But this wasn’t real life — it was the parallel reality of HBO’s ‘Watchmen,’ where the fictional Gates character is the treasury secretary who helps descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 trace their history and claim reparations for what was — in the show and in reality — the country’s worst act of racial violence since the Civil War.

“I’d been to the real Greenwood Cultural Center many times, and there were no holograms, no virtual reality displays of what happened in Tulsa almost a century ago. In the cavernous shell of the actual Greenwood Center, there is a no-frills, but emotionally chilling, history of a place once called Black Wall Street.

“A decidedly low-tech exhibition features black-and-white photo reproductions of a war zone, charred bodies and menacing white looters. Also in the real Tulsa: Reparations for 1921 are far more implausible than a Robert Redford presidency.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.