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Descendant of W. Tate Brady — Tulsa founder who played a role in race massacre — reaches out to leaders in the Greenwood District
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Descendant of W. Tate Brady — Tulsa founder who played a role in race massacre — reaches out to leaders in the Greenwood District

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Tulsa World assistant editor Kendrick Marshall and staff writer Randy Krehbiel discuss the effects of the massacre 100 years later

W. Tate Brady was a founding father of Tulsa.

He signed the city’s charter in 1898, built the Brady Hotel and was a leader in local Democratic Party politics. The Tulsa street north or Archer Street and south of Cameron Street was named in his honor until 2013.

But Brady was a member of Ku Klux Klan, a fact that led city leaders to change the street’s name ultimately to Reconciliation Way. Brady also reportedly had a role in the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

Now one of Brady’s great-grandsons, Jeffrey Myers, 68, has reached out to leaders in the Greenwood District and has written an essay, first published in The Oklahoman, addressing the issues of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

A Presbyterian minister in Frankfurt, Germany, Myers agreed to answer a series of Tulsa World questions by email:

What role did your great-grandfather play in the Tulsa Race Massacre?

According to eyewitnesses, Tate Brady is reported to have volunteered for guard duty during the night of the massacre. I have read extensively about the events 100 years ago, but much still remains unknown as to what actually occurred during my great-grandfather’s particular watch.

It appears, though, that the proprietor of the Brady Hotel was, so to speak, on the wrong side of the street — and on the wrong side of history.

You wrote an interesting column on the issue recently, have you felt compelled to speak out on the anniversary of the race massacre?

As I grow older, I realize increasingly that each of us, metaphorically speaking, has but a few summers in which to reach out in kindness to others and offer encouragement to those traveling with us.

And I have begun to consider anew the question of responsibility for injustice incurred. Is it fair, on the one hand, that some of us should draw upon a legacy of affluence and opportunity, and be recipients of those blessings and gifts which provide the roots and wings tantamount to happiness and success — and yet not also bear in some way the shadows of that legacy, which include injustice and violence done to others?

Have you had any feedback from family members about what you wrote?

On the eve of the centennial, my mother has been remembering and reflecting upon the Tulsa of her youth. As she recalls, no one seemed to talk about the Greenwood tragedy during her growing-up years. She recounted recently that she was so upset as a young girl to see her fellow Tulsans, Black Tulsans, proceeding to the back of the bus after boarding, that she would intentionally head toward the back of the bus herself.

She recently noted that we have come a long way during her lifetime (nearly a century!) …but, of course, we’ve still got a long way to go until Dr. (Martin Luther) King Jr.’s dream becomes a reality for all and “justice rolls down like waters.”

Explain what you mean by “greening Greenwood.” What would that accomplish for society?

Green is the color of new beginnings and hope. I thought that it might be a meaningful gesture, as well as a visible expression of the desire for healing and reconciliation, if the descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre — both victims and perpetrators, together with all people of good will in the community, would come together to plant a tree and/or initiate an urban-gardening project — or even “plant” scholarships as a means of promoting higher education and a brighter future.

As a 25-year resident of Germany, are there things Americans could learn from Germans about dealing with uncomfortable portions of its history?

It took Germany quite some time following World War II — in part due to the necessity to first rebuild the country, perhaps also in part due to shame — to confront the unspeakable pain and suffering it brought upon the world, particularly regarding the Holocaust.

During the past decades, Germany has worked very hard in the area of reconciliation and reparations, bending over backwards and pledging in word and deed: “nie wieder” (never again). This is reflected, among other things, in the country’s generous immigration policy. Dealing with anti-Semitism — past and present — is discussed each day in the media.

Last week, Germany announced plans to make reparations for the genocide committed in Namibia more than 100 years ago.

The current discussion regarding reparations in Tulsa might benefit from learning more about how the German government is endeavoring to bring about healing and encourage reconciliation in light of the atrocities committed over 100 years ago in Namibia.

Germans have struggled, too, in the aftermath of World War II with issues of dismantling statues and renaming streets. In some cases, though, they have chosen to leave a particular monument as an “historical learning tool.” For example, a Lutheran church in Wittenberg decided to leave a 13th-century anti-Semitic carving on the outside wall, adding a plaque condemning the anti-Semitism exhibited in the stone sculpture.

Many here feel that such visible reminders of injustice are important to retain, so that history does not repeat itself.

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Editorial Pages Editor

I'm the editorial pages editor of the Tulsa World and a political columnist. A fourth-generation Oklahoman, I previously served as the World’s city editor for 13 years and as a reporter at the state Capitol of four years. Phone: 918-581-8308

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