Individual Presentation or Panel Title

Teaching the Tulsa Race Riot: Exploring Place as Text

Abstract

The violent events of May 31-June 1, 1921 left the prosperous Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, called “Black Wall Street” in ruin, but the effects of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot were political, economic, cultural, and long-lasting. The riot left 300 people, mostly African Americans, dead and another 10,000 homeless. But for students to understand the events of the TRR, they must first understand Oklahoma’s place in American history, first as unincorporated Indian territory and the destination for southern Indian Removal policies before the Civil, then as a proposed all-Black state in 1880-90’s, and now, like many places in America, a state constantly struggling with its multiethnic, multicultural future. This presentation tells the story of the Tulsa Race Riot and offers new meaning to the phrase “place as text” by walking participants through: Pretext (Tulsa and Oklahoma’s beginnings), Plaintext (one tale of the riot), Intertextuality (multiple perspectives of the riot), Subtext (the social climate of the 1920s), Context (exploring Tulsa’s Greenwood, where the riot took place), and Creating Texts (Writing your own story to interrogate your beliefs on multicultural education). For pre-service teachers, studying the TRR helps them gain new understandings of multicultural education and how to integrate their city/state’s history in that endeavor, making it more meaningful and relevant for students. For secondary students, this exploration enables them to envision Tulsa’s future as a more equitable city where their civic participation and social action becomes a valued and necessary part of its future.

Presentation Description

In this session, we will explore the historical events related to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot (TRR) and examine the methods used to teach the event to elementary students through university pre-service teachers. At every age level, the TRR can be used to explore racial prejudice and socioeconomic class struggles in American history, but for pre-service teachers, studying the TRR helps them find ways to use local history to better understand their community and to use it as a model to study national and global issues. The legacy of the TRR has been one of silence and segregation, but new generations of students and teachers exposed to the lessons of the TRR are finding ways to teach Tulsa as a place of resilience, reconciliation, and revitalization.

Keywords

Race riot, US History, Place-based curriculum, Social studies education, Multicultural education, Pre-service teachers, Secondary education

Location

Magnolia Room C

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

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Jun 12th, 10:45 AM Jun 12th, 12:00 PM

Teaching the Tulsa Race Riot: Exploring Place as Text

Magnolia Room C

The violent events of May 31-June 1, 1921 left the prosperous Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, called “Black Wall Street” in ruin, but the effects of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot were political, economic, cultural, and long-lasting. The riot left 300 people, mostly African Americans, dead and another 10,000 homeless. But for students to understand the events of the TRR, they must first understand Oklahoma’s place in American history, first as unincorporated Indian territory and the destination for southern Indian Removal policies before the Civil, then as a proposed all-Black state in 1880-90’s, and now, like many places in America, a state constantly struggling with its multiethnic, multicultural future. This presentation tells the story of the Tulsa Race Riot and offers new meaning to the phrase “place as text” by walking participants through: Pretext (Tulsa and Oklahoma’s beginnings), Plaintext (one tale of the riot), Intertextuality (multiple perspectives of the riot), Subtext (the social climate of the 1920s), Context (exploring Tulsa’s Greenwood, where the riot took place), and Creating Texts (Writing your own story to interrogate your beliefs on multicultural education). For pre-service teachers, studying the TRR helps them gain new understandings of multicultural education and how to integrate their city/state’s history in that endeavor, making it more meaningful and relevant for students. For secondary students, this exploration enables them to envision Tulsa’s future as a more equitable city where their civic participation and social action becomes a valued and necessary part of its future.