Wanting to include more Tulsa history in the school’s core curriculum, University of Oklahoma regents toured downtown Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and got a sneak preview Tuesday of the future Greenwood Rising center, which will be a sort of interactive museum focusing on the 1921 Race Massacre.
“It’s an important part of Oklahoma history and U.S. history,” regent Eric Stevenson told the Tulsa World during the tour. “So it needs to be an important part of the university’s history too.”
OU President Joseph Harroz explained how he wants to revamp the university’s general education curriculum to “challenge our way of thinking” and have students “learn about ‘the other,’ ” with a required American history class including lessons on the Tulsa Race Massacre.
“We have seen nationally how important it is that we understand each other,” Harroz said Tuesday. “That’s the only way we’re going to make progress, the only way to continue this democracy of ours.”
The regents began the walking tour at the downtown offices for state Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, who has long championed plans for the Greenwood Rising history center that is now under construction just a few steps away at the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Archer Street.
The center will document not only the race massacre itself but explain the events and circumstance that led up to the tragedy and continue the narrative to show how the community rebuilt afterward, officials said.
“Don’t just talk about the massacre,” Phil Armstrong, the project director for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, told the regents. “Tell the full story of how people rebuilt it, actually bigger and better than it was before the destruction.”
Largely destroyed in 1921, more than 80% of Tulsa’s Greenwood District was rebuilt within five years, Armstrong said. And the thriving business district, known nationally as Black Wall Street due to its relative prosperity, didn’t peak until the 1940s, he said.
“The story didn’t end in 1921,” he told the regents. “In fact, Greenwood’s story still hasn’t ended. We’re building a new chapter right now.”