Scarcity in the American Education System: Tulsa Race Massacre
By: Momo Monfredo
The American education system has been crafted for years and years to prioritize white voices in stories. Regardless of which class is being taught, there is rarely any emphasis on or recognition of Black voices and stories, and the ones that do get recognized get diluted down to nothing.
One of these events that was washed out by white voices is the Tulsa Race Massacre, which happened in June of 1921. There are many times in history including this particular event that are not taught, but should be taught for many reasons. There is a danger of hyper focusing on a few historical events and leaving the rest a gray area. In regard to race, it doesn’t account for the development of many deeply rooted areas of racism.
The Tulsa Race Massacre should be taught. Ignoring historical events that are not only insightful but also prevalent to the current day, is incredibly harmful. By teaching students these portions of history that are not currently taught, they can begin to understand how history led us to this point, and how exactly racism is systemic.
Black Wall Street is a name given to a successful black neighborhood in Greenwood, Oklahoma. It was originally developed by O.W. Gurley, a wealthy Black man who created the first Black business in the district in 1906. Once word spread about its wonderful opportunities for Black folks by Black folks, many more Black-owned businesses blossomed.
By 1921, there were many beautiful, thriving businesses like grocery stores, hotels, night clubs, theatres, medical offices, etc. This flourishing for Black Americans was seen as a threat, and many white people in Tulsa at the time had become aggravated by it, and soon they would do what they could to completely disassemble it.
The Tulsa Race Massacre itself refers to what happened after a young Black adult (Dick Rowland) walked into an elevator that a white elevator operator (Sarah Page) was in. As she screamed, he ran out in fear and was soon arrested by the police.
The morning after he was incarcerated, there were rumors circling the area about the young man, including that he had sexually assaulted the woman. A mob of white men tried to get to Rowland, but police resisted; after that, a group of Black men went to defend him and the two groups clashed violently.
The massacre began with fighting and soon the white mob brought guns and more people and started shooting at hundreds of Black people in their vicinity. By the time it ended June 1, there were approximately 1,256 houses burned, 215 houses looted and though the state declared there were 36 people killed, historians argue it was closer to 300.
Furthermore, the economic damage was large as there were $1.8 million in property loss claims ($27 million in the current day). All the effort that was put into creating this safe space was ultimately destroyed.
The Tulsa Race Massacre is telling of how deeply rooted racism is within America. It shows how anything a Black person was accused of was automatically trusted, and how Black success was so aggravating that the surrounding white people did what they could do to completely destroy it.
Schools should teach this event along with more Black history because painting history with a broad white brush only further perpetuates the ideals of white supremacy by only highlighting voices of white people, and only highlighting the history of people of color negatively. Integrating this specific event into U.S. history curricula could illustrate the societal differences between white people and Black people. At the time in the early 1900s, segregation was thriving, the Ku Klux Klan was murdering Black folks and overall it was an incredibly dangerous environment for Black people.
Black business owners created Black Wall Street to give themselves an opportunity for growth and success, but that was taken away from them. In relation to today, Black people in America are among the largest demographic for living in low socioeconomic conditions, and this persists because of the deeply rooted efforts from history (like the Tulsa Race Massacre), where Black success was seen as a threat.