Learn from and about the Tulsa Massacre in 1921
Author: Emily Farris (Texas Christian University).
HBO’s Watchmen is a retelling a 1986 DC Comics series. It might seem like a surreal and alternate history. But, as Matt Miller in Esquire points, the show opens with a history that few Americans know: the Tulsa Massacre (1921).
The pilot episode shows planes dropping bombs onto Black Wall Street, an African American neighborhood in Greenwood, Tulsa. The Black community was terrorized and attacked in the “single most horrific incident of racial violence” in American history. White supremacists killed hundreds of African Americans, although the exact number is unknown as the community searches mass graves. They ransacked and destroyed the community.
Too few Americans are aware of this genocide. White-owned newspapers buried it and historians wrote history textbooks that ignored and erased African Americans from American history. It will be the 100th anniversary the Tulsa Massacre. It is high time that we remember and commemorate the events at Tulsa and elsewhere in North Carolina, such as Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898, Dr. LeCount noted on Twitter. We also need to acknowledge their importance in our politics. Only a few students have heard of the Tulsa Massacre when I talk about it in my Urban Politics class.
You could add information and a discussion about the Tulsa Massacre to an Introduction to American Politics class. However, discussions of race should not be limited to the chapter on Civil Rights. My students often assume that there is a linear progression from the U.S. Civil War to Civil Rights Acts and Voting Rights Acts of 1960. Students can better understand the history of racial violence in the 20th century and the struggle for civil rights for African Americans by carefully discussing such events as the Red Summer of 1919.
Here are some ideas for classes, including information about the Tulsa Massacre. You could:
This is the first-hand account of Tulsa Massacre, as told by an eyewitness, B.C. Franklin.
See the video below from Dr. Carol Anderson, Emory University, discussing the Tulsa Massacre in context of American politics and racial histories.
Listen to Olivia Hooker, the last witness to the Tulsa Massacre.
Use information and images from the thread on the Tulsa Massacre, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in the lecture.
Talk about how the African American community of Tulsa resisted and rebuilt, and how they advocated for the city to recognize the massacre and make amends. You could also discuss the search for mass burials (links above – Dr. Jordan Kyle thanks for one of the suggestions).
This longer video of the event can be assigned to students for them to view outside of class.