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?
But perhaps pushed into action by the renewed interest in that time period courtesy of HBO’s hit series Watchmen, school districts in the state are finally ready to address what Sen. Kevin Matthews calls, “Tulsa’s dirty secret.”
CNN reports that Oklahoma’s education department will provide the framework of a curriculum in April that’s designed to provide “extra support and resources” when teaching students about the massacre. It will be officially incorporated into lesson plans beginning in the fall.
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“What we want to ensure is that...we are teaching [at] a grade-appropriate level those facts that have not been taught in a way they should have been taught in Oklahoma,” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said at a news conference on Wednesday. “This is...our history and we should know it.”
Deborah A. Gist, the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, admitted that despite being a student of the same school system she now oversees, she never learned about the massacre herself until she became an educator.
“What I’m deeply committed to in Tulsa Public Schools is making sure that never happens again,” she said.
Do I have complete faith in the school system to properly educate students on Tulsa’s sordid past? Nope. But it’s a step in the right direction that at the very least provides both students and parents with a gateway to educate themselves further on a gruesome chapter of black history.