June 7, 2021

Learning About the Tulsa Race Massacre

Hello, and happy Monday.

Last week marked the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre and it’s become very clear that many people did not learn about this terrible event in school. Times have changed and the Tulsa Race Massacre is now included in the state’s teaching standards. Still, many people say the event was taught only briefly, or not at all. Here’s what State Rep. John Waldron, a former teacher, said about the first time he learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre:

“I first learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre in a few small references in history classes when I was in college. Then, about a month before I moved to Tulsa from Washington DC in 1999, I saw a tableau about the event at the Martin Luther King Library, part of the DC public library system. That was the first time I began to grasp the severity of the incident.

“I went on to teach at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. In 1921 it was one of the only buildings to survive in that part of town. It played an essential role in preserving the Black community in Greenwood, and the history of that moment continued to play a role in the school’s identity during my time there. I compiled a school history and often discussed it in my classes.

“As a legislator, the legacy of the 1921 Race Massacre is of critical importance. As Faulkner said, “the past is not dead. It’s not even past.” I feel that Oklahoma has a history of evading its historical responsibility, whether it is the Trail of Tears or the Osage Murders, the grifting of tribes or the Race Massacre. Oklahoma today all too often stands in denial of its legacy, which is why we passed a resolution condemning critical race theory the same day we passed a resolution honoring the centennial.

“In short, Oklahoma remains a conflicted place, because it cannot move forward until it addresses its past.”

I hope everyone who has not yet learned about the Tulsa Race Massacre takes the time to do so. Have a great week.

— Jennifer Palmer

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What I’m reading

  • Stop whitewashing history, starting with the Tulsa Race Massacre, pens actor Tom Hanks in a guest essay. [The New York Times]
  • Judge grants Oklahoma auditor access to Epic spending records. [Tulsa World]
  • Public colleges are using for-profit debt collection agencies. [The Hechinger Report]
  • Fewer high school graduates went to college in 2020-21, new data shows. [Education Week]

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