Hannibal Johnson: Black Wall Street Remembered
"Black Wall Street Remembered"
This presentation will highlight the birth of the robust, segregated Black business community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, fondly dubbed "Black Wall Street," its destruction in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, its rebirth in the wake of the massacre, its second decline during the Civil Rights Era, and its latter-day renaissance.
Part of the Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains summit
icon search Searchable Transcript
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
[00:00:05.640]Good morning everybody.
[00:00:07.670]Welcome to our first full day
[00:00:09.760]of our Reckoning and Reconciliation
[00:00:11.580]On the Great Plains summit.
[00:00:13.660]I am Margaret Jacobs.
[00:00:15.060]I'm the Director of the Center for Great Plains Studies
[00:00:17.510]And we're delighted that you're here with us this morning.
[00:00:20.950]We hope you were able
[00:00:22.010]to catch the outstanding kickoff presentation
[00:00:24.930]by Walter Echo-Hawk last night, in person or virtually.
[00:00:29.680]His address was recorded
[00:00:31.370]and will soon be available
[00:00:32.630]on the Center for Great Plains Studies website.
[00:00:36.250]Before we begin this morning,
[00:00:37.670]I wanna thank our many sponsors
[00:00:39.460]and partners for supporting this summit
[00:00:42.090]and the year long series of which it is a part.
[00:00:45.380]We are very grateful to the Cooper Foundation,
[00:00:49.890]the Office of the President of the University of Nebraska
[00:00:52.740]and its Diversity Officer's Collaborative,
[00:00:56.250]the University of Nebraska at Kearney
[00:00:58.580]and these many entities
[00:01:00.600]at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
[00:01:03.020]The Chancellor's Office,
[00:01:04.580]the Executive Vice Chancellor's Office,
[00:01:07.020]the Office of Research and Economic Development,
[00:01:10.010]the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Law,
[00:01:13.520]the College of Education and Human Sciences
[00:01:16.450]and the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.
[00:01:21.220]And here at the Center for Great Plains Studies
[00:01:24.100]I'd really like to thank all of our hardworking staff,
[00:01:27.500]including Katie Neland, Dylan Wall, Sarah Giles,
[00:01:32.100]Melissa Amateis, Ashley Wilkinson, and Casey Seger.
[00:01:39.970]So I wanna begin this morning by acknowledging
[00:01:42.580]that the University of Nebraska is a land grant institution
[00:01:46.530]with campuses and programs on the past, present,
[00:01:49.750]and future homelands of the Pawnees, Ponca, Oto-Missouria,
[00:01:54.300]Omaha, Dakota, Lakota, Kaw, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Peoples,
[00:01:59.640]as well as those of the relocated Ho Chunk,
[00:02:02.520]Sac and Fox and Iowa Peoples.
[00:02:06.160]The land we currently call Nebraska has always been
[00:02:09.620]and will continue to be an Indigenous homeland.
[00:02:13.160]Please take a moment
[00:02:14.640]to consider the legacies of more than 150 years
[00:02:17.920]of displacement, violence, settlement and survival
[00:02:22.370]that bring us here today.
[00:02:28.990]This acknowledgement and the centering of Indigenous peoples
[00:02:31.810]is a start as we move forward together.
[00:02:37.140]Now to this morning's opening event.
[00:02:40.200]I want to let you know that if you have questions
[00:02:42.900]for our speaker, please post them in the chat
[00:02:45.410]or in the Q and A,
[00:02:46.300]and we'll try to get to as many of them as possible.
[00:02:50.680]I'm really delighted
[00:02:51.900]to introduced our speaker this morning.
[00:02:54.540]Mr. Hannibal Johnson is a Harvard Law School graduate,
[00:02:58.040]an author, an attorney, and a consultant.
[00:03:01.620]He has taught at the University of Tulsa College of Law,
[00:03:05.220]Oklahoma State University, and the University of Oklahoma.
[00:03:09.630]He serves on many, many boards and commissions,
[00:03:13.933]National 400 years of African American History Commission
[00:03:18.060]and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.
[00:03:23.530]He's the author of 10 books,
[00:03:26.510]all of which chronicle the African American experience
[00:03:29.270]in Oklahoma and its indelible impact on American history.
[00:03:34.140]His most recent book is "Black Wall Street 100:
[00:03:38.210]An American City Grapples with
[00:03:40.060]its Historical Racial Trauma."
[00:03:42.960]He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame
[00:03:45.890]just last fall in November of 2021.
[00:03:49.720]We are so delighted to have you and welcome Mr. Johnson.
[00:03:55.427]Great to be here, thank you.
[00:03:58.570]So, we are going to have this presentation today,
[00:04:04.370]this event as an interview, an informal interview.
[00:04:07.970]And so I just wanna start by asking Mr. Johnson,
[00:04:13.270]you call your book "Grappling with Historical Racial Trauma"
[00:04:18.840]so could you describe for our listeners,
[00:04:22.040]what was the historical racial trauma
[00:04:25.020]that the community of Greenwood experienced in Tulsa?
[00:04:31.020]Let me tell you a little bit about that.
[00:04:31.853]Give you a little background.
[00:04:33.850]So the trauma refers to the infamous
[00:04:36.730]1921 Tulsa Race Massacre,
[00:04:40.230]which happened on May 31st through June 1st of 1921.
[00:04:47.572]So that is something that people are becoming
[00:04:49.970]a little bit more familiar with,
[00:04:52.400]but the real story involves
[00:04:55.080]Tulsa's historic Greenwood District.
[00:04:57.090]The historic Black community in Tulsa
[00:04:59.860]that abutted downtown Tulsa,
[00:05:01.460]separated, literally by the Frisco tracks,
[00:05:04.450]a segregated insular Black community
[00:05:07.460]that became Black Wall Street,
[00:05:09.660]for its entrepreneurial prowess,
[00:05:11.420]for its economic activity and so forth.
[00:05:14.880]When I talk to people,
[00:05:16.420]I say that the real story here
[00:05:19.090]is what I call the indomitable human spirit.
[00:05:23.810]It really is about a remarkable people
[00:05:26.720]who envisioned, created, nurtured, resurrected,
[00:05:30.020]and sustained a remarkable business
[00:05:32.410]and entrepreneurial community
[00:05:34.050]and a remarkable neighborhood here in Tulsa
[00:05:38.020]in the early 20th century.
[00:05:40.640]Now to give you an illustration of what I mean
[00:05:42.393]when I talk about the indomitable human spirit,
[00:05:45.630]I wanna share with you
[00:05:47.130]the exchange of two letters between friends.
[00:05:50.800]The letters were written
[00:05:52.140]in the immediate wake of the massacre in 1921.
[00:05:56.590]And they were exchanged by two gentlemen.
[00:06:01.130]Curtis, who lived in Detroit.
[00:06:04.340]He was writing to check up on his dear friend,
[00:06:06.650]Oliver, who lived in Tulsa.
[00:06:09.330]Again in the immediate wake of the massacre in 1921.
[00:06:12.710]Just listen to the letters.
[00:06:16.170]I am, by our local newspaper,
[00:06:17.720]fully advised of the whole terrible tragedy there.
[00:06:21.400]Now that they have destroyed your homes,
[00:06:23.630]wrecked your schools, reduced your business places to ashes
[00:06:27.450]and killed your people,
[00:06:29.280]I am sure that you will rapidly give up the town
[00:06:31.370]and move north.
[00:06:33.010]Enclosed, please find a draft for $40
[00:06:36.160]to purchase your ticket to Detroit.
[00:06:38.250]Will be expecting you.
[00:06:40.620]And the response is this,
[00:06:44.980]How kind of you to volunteer your sympathetic assistance.
[00:06:48.180]It's just like you to be helpful to others
[00:06:51.250]in times of stress like these.
[00:06:54.570]True it is, we are facing a terrible situation.
[00:06:59.720]It is equally true that they have destroyed our homes.
[00:07:03.881]They have wrecked our schools.
[00:07:06.057]They have reduced our churches to ashes
[00:07:08.240]and they have murdered our people, Curtis,
[00:07:11.870]but they have not touched our spirit.
[00:07:14.610]And while I speak only for myself,
[00:07:16.770]let it be said that I came here
[00:07:18.310]and built my fortune with that spirit.
[00:07:21.710]I so reconstruct it here with that spirit
[00:07:25.550]and I expect to live on and die here with it.
[00:07:31.830]This then is Tulsa's historic Greenwood District.
[00:07:36.280]The story is fundamentally
[00:07:38.380]about the indomitable human spirit.
[00:07:41.210]It's about people like the Oliver's of the world
[00:07:45.820]who seemed to be in abundance
[00:07:47.950]in Tulsa's historic Greenwood District
[00:07:49.840]in the early part of the 20th century.
[00:07:52.170]So lemme tell you a little bit more.
[00:07:53.530]So the Greenwood District was,
[00:07:55.340]again, a segregated Black community in Tulsa,
[00:07:59.260]separated from downtown Tulsa by the Frisco tracks,
[00:08:03.460]roughly 35 square block area.
[00:08:07.540]And in this area,
[00:08:09.650]African Americans created their own kind of economic hub
[00:08:12.940]because they had to, because of legal segregation.
[00:08:17.940]I use the metaphor of African Americans approaching
[00:08:21.310]the gates of economic opportunity in downtown Tulsa
[00:08:24.190]and being turned away.
[00:08:26.870]It's an economic detour,
[00:08:28.340]being forced back into their own community.
[00:08:30.520]So they created businesses
[00:08:32.650]and provided services with and for their own
[00:08:36.300]and created their own kind of insular separate economy.
[00:08:40.850]It was much more of a Black main street though,
[00:08:43.380]than a Black Wall Street.
[00:08:45.090]I say that to say that this was not
[00:08:47.780]a community full of banks
[00:08:49.520]and investment ventures and so forth.
[00:08:51.660]It was a community that was dotted with barber shops
[00:08:55.920]and beauty salons and restaurants and grocery stores
[00:08:58.560]and tailor shops and haberdasheries,
[00:09:01.080]hotels and rooming houses and garages,
[00:09:04.900]dance halls, pool halls, and the like.
[00:09:07.570]And also populated by a concentration of professionals,
[00:09:11.610]doctors, lawyers, accountants, and dentists.
[00:09:14.460]Much more of a main street than a Wall Street,
[00:09:16.860]but that Black Wall Street moniker really stuck.
[00:09:20.100]It's really only a nod to the economic concentration
[00:09:24.120]in this Black community of Tulsa.
[00:09:27.720]We have an incredible array of economic
[00:09:31.140]and entrepreneurial activity going on in 1921
[00:09:34.710]in the run up to the massacre.
[00:09:37.860]And then we have, really the confluence of several dynamics,
[00:09:41.940]both locally and nationally, that really lead to conditions
[00:09:46.250]that allow the massacre to occur.
[00:09:48.950]Normally, when I talk about the massacre itself,
[00:09:50.850]I talk about,
[00:09:51.920]or I give a version of a Maya Angelou quote which is,
[00:09:56.457]"Our history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived,
[00:10:00.590]but if faced with courage, it need not be lived again."
[00:10:04.600]So, we ignore the lessons of our history at our own peril.
[00:10:08.780]So remember that when we think about
[00:10:10.960]historical racial traumas,
[00:10:12.850]like the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
[00:10:16.230]The national context here is really important.
[00:10:20.170]So what's going on in America in 1921?
[00:10:24.290]World War I has just ended recently within a couple years.
[00:10:29.170]We've experienced 1919,
[00:10:31.350]the summer and fall of which was referred to as Red Summer
[00:10:34.780]by James Weldon Johnson of the NAACP.
[00:10:37.040]Red being a metaphorical reference to the blood
[00:10:39.870]that flowed through the streets from these
[00:10:41.850]so-called race riots that were occurring
[00:10:44.540]really all over the United States.
[00:10:46.080]New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, DC,
[00:10:51.130]Omaha, Elaine, Arkansas, Longview, Texas,
[00:10:55.090]Memphis, Tennessee and I could go on and on and on.
[00:10:58.970]1919 was really fraught with racial trauma.
[00:11:03.240]So that's part of the backdrop.
[00:11:05.260]In Tulsa, there was a, what I call land lust.
[00:11:09.880]The Black community sat on land
[00:11:11.740]that literally abutted downtown
[00:11:14.520]separated by the Frisco tracks.
[00:11:16.680]So a number of industrialists
[00:11:18.080]and corporate types wanted the land
[00:11:19.830]in which the Black community rested.
[00:11:22.540]And there were discussions,
[00:11:24.790]pretty explicit discussions,
[00:11:26.190]about ways to move the Black community farther north
[00:11:30.240]and to use the Greenwood District,
[00:11:32.270]the historic Black community,
[00:11:34.040]for higher and better purposes.
[00:11:36.382]At least according to these corporate
[00:11:39.170]and industrial types.
[00:11:41.970]There was a certain amount of jealousy
[00:11:44.070]of the relative success of the Black community.
[00:11:48.660]I like to use the psychological term cognitive dissonance
[00:11:51.610]to describe this.
[00:11:53.720]If you think about a period in our history
[00:11:56.630]where white supremacy was the ideology of the day
[00:12:03.380]and Black folks were inferior,
[00:12:07.780]if not subhuman, in the minds of a number of whites,
[00:12:13.490]then you can see why the relative economic success
[00:12:16.870]in the Black community, there were millionaires,
[00:12:18.700]there were people driving cars,
[00:12:19.940]a lot of people owned their own homes,
[00:12:21.360]there were businesses and so forth.
[00:12:23.510]The relative success caused this sort of consternation
[00:12:28.830]in the minds of a number of whites.
[00:12:30.490]You could literally stand on the Frisco tracks in Tulsa
[00:12:35.620]and look north, if you were white,
[00:12:37.790]and see Black success and Black excellence.
[00:12:40.960]And if you were white and poor, of course,
[00:12:42.680]that really caused you serious consternation.
[00:12:46.530]So this idea of jealousy,
[00:12:48.440]a misalignment between what one believes ought be true
[00:12:52.020]and what the facts are on the ground
[00:12:54.670]and how do you harmonize this misalignment?
[00:12:57.720]Well, one way to do it is
[00:12:59.250]to pull the Black community down a couple of pegs
[00:13:03.670]so that you don't have to deal with
[00:13:04.890]that dissonance in your mind
[00:13:06.500]that really emanates from white supremacist mindsets.
[00:13:12.020]Another factor in Tulsa was the KKK, Ku Klux Klan,
[00:13:15.470]the iconic domestic terrorist organization
[00:13:18.100]that had a huge presence, not just in Tulsa,
[00:13:21.070]but in Oklahoma generally throughout the decade of 1920s.
[00:13:25.100]Tulsa has a dubious distinction
[00:13:26.870]of having one of the first women's auxiliaries of the KKK
[00:13:32.390]and one of the first youth chapters of the KKK.
[00:13:36.970]And then finally, the fifth factor for me is, is the media.
[00:13:41.890]We talk about the role of media in society today,
[00:13:44.070]as well we should.
[00:13:45.530]The media were important
[00:13:47.140]back in the early part of the 20th century as well.
[00:13:50.320]When we talk about media then
[00:13:51.470]we're talking primarily about print newspapers.
[00:13:54.430]So one particular print newspaper, The Tulsa Tribune,
[00:13:57.900]a daily afternoon newspaper
[00:14:00.760]published a series of articles
[00:14:02.510]and editorials that really fomented hostility
[00:14:05.880]in the white community against the Black community.
[00:14:09.750]And ultimately these factors taken together,
[00:14:14.210]created a tinder box or a powder keg
[00:14:17.890]that needed only some sort of catalyst
[00:14:20.360]or igniter to set the community a light.
[00:14:24.280]Well that happened on Monday, May 30th, 1921.
[00:14:28.850]It's an elevator incident that you might be familiar with
[00:14:31.290]involving two teenagers.
[00:14:32.490]Dick Rowland, a Black boy, 19 years old.
[00:14:34.940]Sarah Page, a white girl, 17 years old.
[00:14:37.880]Dick Rowland is a shoe shine boy.
[00:14:40.580]He's making lots of money in tips
[00:14:42.080]from some of the wealthy oil barons in Tulsa.
[00:14:43.990]Tulsa is on the upward trajectory,
[00:14:45.960]becoming the oil capital of the world.
[00:14:48.350]Dick Rowland needs to use the restroom.
[00:14:50.210]Most facilities are segregated.
[00:14:53.130]He knows of a facility available for his use
[00:14:55.530]in the downtown Drexel Building.
[00:14:57.700]Sarah Page, 17 year old white girl,
[00:15:00.080]is operating the elevator.
[00:15:01.570]Elevators are operated manually at this time.
[00:15:05.200]When Dick Rowland enters the Drexel Building,
[00:15:07.270]boards the elevator, something happens.
[00:15:09.430]We'll never know exactly what it was
[00:15:11.240]but it caused Dick Rowland to bump into
[00:15:13.110]or brush up against Sarah Page.
[00:15:15.500]Sarah Page overreacted.
[00:15:17.110]She began to scream.
[00:15:18.940]The elevator landed back on the lobby level.
[00:15:23.010]Dick Rowland, frightened because of Sarah Page's screams,
[00:15:25.620]ran from the elevator.
[00:15:27.120]Sarah Page exit the elevator distraught.
[00:15:30.350]A clerk from a locally owned store
[00:15:31.820]called Renberg's assists Sarah.
[00:15:34.990]She tells him about what she frames
[00:15:37.630]as an attempted assault on the elevator.
[00:15:40.110]He's obviously concerned.
[00:15:41.440]He calls the police.
[00:15:43.430]Dick Rowland is ultimately arrested.
[00:15:46.110]Sarah Page, in the end, would recant that original testimony
[00:15:51.290]and refused to cooperate with prosecution
[00:15:54.260]as they attempted to charge and prosecute Dick Rowland.
[00:16:00.030]So the day after the incident occurred,
[00:16:03.120]one of the reasons things go south is
[00:16:04.830]because The Tulsa Tribune,
[00:16:06.410]the newspaper I mentioned earlier,
[00:16:07.710]published an account of the incident.
[00:16:10.270]The account was entitled,
[00:16:11.577]"Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In an Elevator."
[00:16:15.650]And it wasn't an opinion piece.
[00:16:17.260]It was a news story.
[00:16:19.090]And the news story really framed this
[00:16:21.130]as an attempted rape in broad daylight,
[00:16:23.940]in a public building in downtown Tulsa.
[00:16:27.470]And not surprisingly,
[00:16:28.530]that really excited people in the white community
[00:16:31.360]because they believed
[00:16:33.590]the press account of what had happened.
[00:16:37.460]After the newspaper published the piece on May 31st,
[00:16:40.333]a large white mob began to gather
[00:16:42.820]on the lawn of the courthouse.
[00:16:44.230]The jail was a top the courthouse
[00:16:45.667]and the sheriff was Sheriff McCullough.
[00:16:47.920]Sheriff McCullough had begun hearing rumors
[00:16:50.880]that there was going to be a mob
[00:16:52.470]to seize Dick Rowland from the jail,
[00:16:54.610]take him out to a public place and lynch him.
[00:16:57.600]He was concerned.
[00:16:59.600]He called down to the offices of the Tulsa Star,
[00:17:02.620]the leading Black newspaper at the time,
[00:17:04.340]he knew that there'd be Black men gathered there
[00:17:06.350]and he told them of these lynch rumors,
[00:17:08.520]this lynch talk that he was hearing.
[00:17:11.070]Several dozen Black men marched down to the courthouse,
[00:17:15.060]determined to protect Dick Rowland from
[00:17:17.240]what they thought would be a certain lynching.
[00:17:19.670]Lynchings were going on
[00:17:20.780]all over the United States, generally.
[00:17:22.840]These so-called race riots
[00:17:23.930]were happening all over the United States, generally.
[00:17:26.320]So protection of particularly Black men
[00:17:28.480]was really a first order priority in the community.
[00:17:34.130]The sheriff met these Black men, again,
[00:17:36.120]several dozen in a number,
[00:17:37.180]and turned them away
[00:17:38.290]saying that he had Dick Rowland protected.
[00:17:40.980]He had shut off the elevator.
[00:17:42.780]He had guards stationed on the stairwell
[00:17:45.880]to protect Dick Rowland if a mob were to enter the building.
[00:17:52.450]Meanwhile, the white mob continued to grow in numbers,
[00:17:56.020]growing to ultimately thousands in number.
[00:18:02.030]Black men became increasingly concerned.
[00:18:04.310]So they gathered a few more men, about 60 or 70 Black men.
[00:18:10.010]Some of them armed.
[00:18:11.280]Some of them World War I veterans
[00:18:12.810]who knew how to use their weapons.
[00:18:13.960]Marched down to the courthouse,
[00:18:15.630]determined to protect Dick Rowland.
[00:18:20.520]there was a verbal clash between the two groups.
[00:18:23.130]The much larger white group, smaller Black group.
[00:18:26.950]Ultimately one of the white men in the large white mob
[00:18:29.960]confronted a Black man holding a gun
[00:18:32.490]and wrestled with him over the gun.
[00:18:36.060]The gun discharged
[00:18:37.550]and in the words of some of the survivors of the massacre,
[00:18:40.797]"All hell broke loose after that."
[00:18:43.890]The actual fighting lasted roughly 14 hours.
[00:18:48.750]Some Black men in the Greenwood community
[00:18:50.840]put up a vigorous defense, but they were overwhelmed.
[00:18:55.480]Many members in the white group,
[00:18:57.670]again, numbering in the thousands ultimately,
[00:18:59.630]were deputized by local law enforcement.
[00:19:03.550]The white men prevented the Tulsa Fire Department
[00:19:06.210]from putting out the fires
[00:19:07.490]that raged in the Greenwood community.
[00:19:12.350]The National Guard was sent in from Oklahoma City
[00:19:14.530]to quell the violence.
[00:19:15.810]They did so on June 1st in the afternoon.
[00:19:19.500]When the dust settled,
[00:19:21.940]somewhere between 100 and 300 people, most of them Black,
[00:19:27.150]Hundreds more were injured.
[00:19:29.890]At least 1,250 homes, private homes,
[00:19:33.410]in the Black community, were destroyed,
[00:19:36.180]as were a number of commercial establishments,
[00:19:39.250]schools, churches, et cetera.
[00:19:42.750]Many Black men were temporarily put in internment centers.
[00:19:46.030]Very much like people of Japanese ancestry
[00:19:47.850]were interned in World War II.
[00:19:50.070]Was ostensibly for their own protection
[00:19:51.930]but a number of the survivors,
[00:19:53.440]when given testimony about 20 years ago said,
[00:19:56.530]what that effectively did
[00:19:57.780]was leave the Greenwood community defenseless.
[00:20:00.650]Populated mostly by women and children.
[00:20:03.730]And the white mob was still rampaging.
[00:20:06.240]So destroying structures, setting fires and so forth.
[00:20:10.560]During the course of the event,
[00:20:11.840]planes flew over the Greenwood community.
[00:20:13.720]And according to survivors,
[00:20:14.850]those planes dropped incendiary devices
[00:20:17.410]or bombs on the community.
[00:20:21.690]The Red Cross was called in,
[00:20:24.350]led by a guy named Maurice Willows out of St. Louis,
[00:20:27.120]to provide the immediate relief.
[00:20:28.670]Healthcare, food, shelter, clothing, et cetera.
[00:20:32.580]As I mentioned earlier, in the end,
[00:20:34.510]Sarah Page refused to cooperate with prosecutors.
[00:20:38.210]Neither Sarah Page nor Dick Rowland were physically harmed,
[00:20:42.550]but the community was virtually decimated.
[00:20:47.300]But therein lies that story that I like to reference
[00:20:51.220]with regard to the indomitable human spirit.
[00:20:53.590]Even as the fires still smoldered,
[00:20:57.310]Black people in the community, against great odds,
[00:21:01.370]And the community was in fact, rebuilt.
[00:21:04.140]Peaking as a business community in the early to mid 1940s.
[00:21:08.300]Declining in the sixties and seventies
[00:21:10.760]for a number of reasons.
[00:21:11.670]We can talk about integration, urban renewal, et cetera.
[00:21:16.260]And the community today is in the midst
[00:21:18.190]of a Renaissance of sorts.
[00:21:21.410]It's really Black Wall Street 201, in a way,
[00:21:24.770]because it's an integrated community.
[00:21:27.270]Land ownership has changed.
[00:21:28.950]The dynamics have changed,
[00:21:31.250]but the thing I find encouraging
[00:21:35.220]is that everybody who's here in this community today,
[00:21:39.180]to my knowledge,
[00:21:41.170]really pays homage to the creation of this community
[00:21:45.400]by these remarkable Black icons.
[00:21:50.060]The builders and creators and visionaries
[00:21:53.280]who imagined something grand,
[00:21:58.000]saw it destroyed,
[00:21:59.070]but resurrected it
[00:22:00.180]and sustained it over the course of decades.
[00:22:03.520]And that's sort of a high level overview.
[00:22:07.560]Wow, that is great.
[00:22:09.060]Mr. Johnson, thank you so much for
[00:22:11.260]giving us that incredible overview.
[00:22:14.850]I have so many questions.
[00:22:17.980]is this as much a personal
[00:22:19.740]and family history for you as a subject of study
[00:22:23.500]as a historian yourself?
[00:22:27.900]You know, I didn't, I grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas,
[00:22:30.000]which is 100 miles southeast of here.
[00:22:33.510]And I didn't know much about Tulsa as a child growing up.
[00:22:37.860]I didn't even know in fact that my own father
[00:22:41.530]graduated from historic Booker T. Washington High School
[00:22:44.550]in Tulsa in 1942.
[00:22:46.660]He didn't live here.
[00:22:47.870]He lived in Arkansas,
[00:22:48.920]He lived in rural Arkansas,
[00:22:49.987]but he spent one year with a relative in Tulsa
[00:22:54.150]to attend Booker T. Washington High School
[00:22:55.920]and get his diploma.
[00:22:57.260]I didn't really know,
[00:22:58.110]I didn't know that until I was an adult.
[00:23:00.210]So my connection to this history really is,
[00:23:03.940]is a connection more broadly to Black history
[00:23:08.690]and to telling the stories that are not told
[00:23:11.710]and to offering a perspective that is not often,
[00:23:14.800]not as often as it should be, offered on this history.
[00:23:21.010]I really appreciate that.
[00:23:22.930]I'm a professional historian
[00:23:25.030]and I majored in history as an undergraduate.
[00:23:29.240]I got my PhD in history
[00:23:31.640]and yet, so many of the details you shared
[00:23:34.640]are not things I ever learned either as a child,
[00:23:38.900]so our history books,
[00:23:40.680]for so many years weren't, they weren't covering this,
[00:23:44.280]but even when you're getting a PhD in American history,
[00:23:47.260]you're not necessarily learning this history.
[00:23:50.010]And so I think that's part of this story as well, right?
[00:23:54.270]About how this history got erased
[00:23:56.470]and then how your community
[00:23:58.890]not only resurrected its community,
[00:24:01.160]but resurrected the history.
[00:24:03.460]Could you tell us a little bit about
[00:24:05.180]how did this history get erased
[00:24:07.620]and how did it get recovered?
[00:24:11.240]So let me go back to my sort of amateur psychologist mode.
[00:24:16.730]I think there are a lot of psychological dynamics
[00:24:18.720]that help explain why this history
[00:24:21.540]was not integrated into the regular history curriculum.
[00:24:26.730]So one thing is that when this happened in 1921,
[00:24:29.950]Tulsa was on an upward trajectory.
[00:24:32.530]It was becoming the self-described oil capital of the world.
[00:24:36.260]So the chamber types and the leaders in the city
[00:24:38.920]really wanted to minimize, if not erase,
[00:24:43.090]this negative event from its history,
[00:24:47.740]because they wanted to position Tulsa
[00:24:49.800]as a cosmopolitan city.
[00:24:51.970]They wanted to attract folk from New York and other places.
[00:24:57.460]And so they did a good job of creating
[00:25:02.360]the kind of social infrastructure
[00:25:04.110]that would attract oil barons and so forth.
[00:25:08.240]Creating opera and symphony and all that sort of stuff.
[00:25:11.620]But this history, no, no.
[00:25:13.490]They didn't wanna deal with this history.
[00:25:16.440]There was a fair amount of shame also going on
[00:25:19.530]in sectors of the white community.
[00:25:22.380]Just shame that they had allowed this to happen
[00:25:24.660]in their beautiful city,
[00:25:26.510]the city that they were positioning to become again,
[00:25:28.760]a cosmopolitan city known throughout all the nation.
[00:25:32.560]In the Black community, even though I don't,
[00:25:35.490]I'm not quite sure the term had been coined.
[00:25:37.360]I think there absolutely was post-traumatic stress disorder.
[00:25:41.170]It was great anxiety over what had happened,
[00:25:44.320]whether it could happen again.
[00:25:47.130]And even in talking to some of the survivors,
[00:25:51.000]they talk about, in their family,
[00:25:52.850]the elders were worried that if they really fully shared
[00:25:57.170]this history with the young people,
[00:26:00.060]that would somehow debilitate them
[00:26:01.980]and keep them from reaching their potential.
[00:26:05.240]So for that reason, they really didn't talk about it.
[00:26:08.270]So it's not just the white community
[00:26:10.030]in which this wasn't discussed.
[00:26:11.100]It wasn't really discussed
[00:26:12.870]broadly in the Black community either.
[00:26:17.140]And then of course we have to think about,
[00:26:21.430]institutionally and structurally,
[00:26:24.400]who has control over what is in the curriculum?
[00:26:29.060]So Black folks never had control of that.
[00:26:32.090]And if you presuppose
[00:26:34.900]this sort of white supremacist mindset,
[00:26:41.250]this history is not important enough to be incorporated.
[00:26:46.210]the history that gets in the history of books,
[00:26:49.730]at least for many and for a long time,
[00:26:53.040]is history that is self-aggrandizing,
[00:26:57.430]is sort of positive,
[00:27:02.160]and interestingly enough,
[00:27:05.080]even though we've been successful
[00:27:07.140]in incorporating this history to some extent,
[00:27:11.050]recently, we risk retrenchment with legislation
[00:27:16.540]that's passed in Oklahoma, it's passing in other states,
[00:27:20.670]that makes it almost impossible to talk about hard history
[00:27:24.980]because hard history
[00:27:28.090]almost by definition makes us uncomfortable.
[00:27:31.040]And I've argued that if it doesn't make us uncomfortable,
[00:27:34.560]then we're not really fully human.
[00:27:37.000]We ought to be uncomfortable
[00:27:38.290]with some of the things that have happened historically.
[00:27:40.930]And if we're ever gonna get beyond them
[00:27:45.020]in a place where those things not only don't happen again,
[00:27:48.340]but where we deal with one another,
[00:27:51.270]recognizing each other's full and shared humanity,
[00:27:55.820]we have to talk about this past, even though it's difficult.
[00:28:00.120]So we're in a position now where we are,
[00:28:05.160]we've taken a couple of steps forward
[00:28:07.270]and we're taking now a step backward.
[00:28:15.860]well, I know you've been involved in so many efforts
[00:28:18.450]to memorialize what happened
[00:28:20.470]and could you describe some of those things
[00:28:23.970]that have been happening
[00:28:24.970]and how the community came together to
[00:28:29.790]memorialize what's happening and preserve this history?
[00:28:32.550]And also maybe talk about any efforts you've made
[00:28:35.920]to gain some sort of reparations
[00:28:37.680]or compensation to the survivors
[00:28:40.780]or their descendants of this horrific massacre.
[00:28:45.850]So in 1997, a state commission was formed called
[00:28:51.430]the Oklahoma Commission
[00:28:54.640]to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
[00:28:57.810]It was 11 member commission, six Black, five white.
[00:29:01.920]Met for four years.
[00:29:04.330]Made recommendations, published,
[00:29:05.940]really an award-winning report that's available online
[00:29:09.800]at The Oklahoma Historical Society.
[00:29:12.230]That report came out in February of 2001,
[00:29:15.270]and it's a factual record,
[00:29:17.670]but it also made recommendations with regard to reparations.
[00:29:22.200]It really made five types of reparations.
[00:29:24.610]Reparations, unspecified amount to living survivors.
[00:29:29.153]there were more than 100 identified living survivors.
[00:29:32.090]Cash reparations to descendants of survivors
[00:29:35.220]who could prove loss of property.
[00:29:39.190]Establishment of an educational scholarship fund
[00:29:42.310]for riot or massacre descendants.
[00:29:46.580]The creation of a commission
[00:29:50.280]to look at economic revitalization
[00:29:52.670]in the historic Greenwood District,
[00:29:55.330]And then some sort of substantial monument or memorial.
[00:29:59.710]So the monument or memorial piece
[00:30:03.090]has been somewhat satisfied.
[00:30:06.480]We have the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park
[00:30:08.700]which was created in part with state funds.
[00:30:13.020]City donation of land and private funds.
[00:30:17.300]And that park is a beautiful park
[00:30:19.360]with sculptures and so forth.
[00:30:21.738]It's a memorial of sorts, but it's also a reflective space.
[00:30:27.490]An educational scholarship program was set up,
[00:30:31.670]but it wasn't limited to massacre or riot related folks.
[00:30:37.870]It was available more broadly
[00:30:39.650]to students from Tulsa public high schools.
[00:30:43.730]There never was cash reparations from the state
[00:30:47.010]or from the city to living survivors
[00:30:49.390]or to descendants who could show property damage.
[00:30:53.100]There was this commission set up
[00:30:55.350]to look at economic revitalization,
[00:30:56.980]but the commission wasn't funded
[00:30:58.700]and it really didn't do anything.
[00:31:00.620]So that's what became
[00:31:01.877]of those recommended forms of reparations.
[00:31:05.951]The Tulsa City Council has decided
[00:31:09.670]to take another look at those recommendations
[00:31:13.080]from that state body.
[00:31:14.580]They just did that.
[00:31:16.246]they're gonna be looking at those recommendations
[00:31:18.027]and deciding what it is that they want to do or not to do.
[00:31:24.212]There was a lawsuit filed seeking
[00:31:26.840]cash reparations back in 2003, filed in federal court.
[00:31:31.630]And it was dismissed based on statute of limitations.
[00:31:34.710]Basically the court said
[00:31:37.710]for the suit to be successful,
[00:31:38.940]it needed to be filed within a certain period.
[00:31:42.880]And it wasn't, it's too like to file it now.
[00:31:45.780]And of course the plaintiffs,
[00:31:47.810]these were race massacre survivors,
[00:31:50.665]they argued that it would've been futile
[00:31:54.400]to file this lawsuit in 1921,
[00:31:57.530]given the social, economic, political dynamics
[00:32:00.430]that existed in the Tulsa community.
[00:32:02.540]So, but that argument was not a winning argument.
[00:32:05.570]There's another lawsuit pending now
[00:32:07.530]on behalf of some massacre survivors
[00:32:10.510]seeking cash reparations based on a different legal theory,
[00:32:14.740]and it's still pending and we'll see what happens there.
[00:32:18.700]Since I'm on the topic of reparations,
[00:32:20.630]let me just say a little bit about my view of reparations,
[00:32:23.230]and then I'll talk about some of the things
[00:32:24.530]that are going on now.
[00:32:26.120]So for me,
[00:32:28.640]it's really important when we talk about reparations
[00:32:31.390]to talk about it in a broad frame.
[00:32:36.120]So reparations meaning to make amends or to repair damage.
[00:32:42.520]So we often truncate that discussion
[00:32:45.880]by fixating on cash reparations.
[00:32:49.397]Cash is a form of reparation,
[00:32:51.940]but there are many other things that we can do.
[00:32:54.500]So you have to think about what is it that we can do,
[00:32:58.960]what is the bundle of things that we can do,
[00:33:01.680]what are the arrows in our quiver, if you will,
[00:33:04.370]in terms of repairing some of the damage
[00:33:07.509]that was rought by the massacre?
[00:33:10.480]And I say there are a lot of things we can do
[00:33:11.990]in terms of education.
[00:33:13.140]Making sure the curriculum gets reformed,
[00:33:15.430]and students get taught this history,
[00:33:18.100]generation after generation after generation.
[00:33:20.730]That has a long term impact
[00:33:22.200]on the dynamics in the community.
[00:33:25.120]There are things that we can do
[00:33:26.500]in terms of targeted economic initiatives
[00:33:30.010]that really elevate the historic community
[00:33:32.970]and the African American community, generally,
[00:33:34.930]the community most harmed by the massacre.
[00:33:38.140]All sorts of things that we can do.
[00:33:40.200]Certainly cash reparations to survivors, descendants
[00:33:43.530]is something we can look at,
[00:33:45.340]but it's not the be all and end all.
[00:33:49.720]And cash reparations are most likely to be sought from
[00:33:55.740]governmental institutions, the city and the state,
[00:33:58.400]which are by definition,
[00:33:59.360]going to almost certainly resist those
[00:34:02.933]and absolutely will resist them
[00:34:05.610]if they're sought through litigation,
[00:34:07.660]through the court system.
[00:34:09.270]So when cash reparations have been awarded,
[00:34:11.970]look at examples throughout the United States,
[00:34:14.180]they've been awarded by legislative bodies,
[00:34:16.460]not through the court system.
[00:34:18.790]Cash reparations to people who were Japanese internees
[00:34:24.040]during World War II or their descendants.
[00:34:26.510]Cash reparations to victims of
[00:34:28.910]the Rosewood Massacre in 1923.
[00:34:33.610]Those were all legislative acts
[00:34:36.110]as opposed to acts through the judiciary
[00:34:39.290]or through the legal system.
[00:34:40.530]So we need to think about that as well.
[00:34:44.770]So given all that,
[00:34:47.190]so I would say that we've, there have been some reparations.
[00:34:50.940]Not necessarily from governmental entities,
[00:34:53.500]but reparations generally.
[00:34:55.770]I look at Greenwood Rising,
[00:34:57.560]this history center that we just built,
[00:34:59.700]as a form of reparations in the sense of,
[00:35:03.490]by design it's a teaching facility
[00:35:08.290]and it's designed to address the past
[00:35:12.060]in ways that connect it to the present
[00:35:15.260]and encourage people to recognize their agency
[00:35:20.030]in terms of working toward social justice.
[00:35:23.370]So Greenwood Rising is a history center,
[00:35:26.930]and I am fortunate to have been local curator
[00:35:31.550]for the history center.
[00:35:32.450]It's a narrative center.
[00:35:34.120]So my work was working with an outfit called Local Projects,
[00:35:38.250]an exhibit design firm in Manhattan,
[00:35:40.740]to create the narrative in this facility.
[00:35:43.810]And so we decided on four galleries,
[00:35:46.610]the Greenwood Spirit, the Arc of Oppression,
[00:35:50.090]subtitled Systems of Anti-Blackness,
[00:35:53.450]Changing Fortunes and the Journey to Reconciliation.
[00:35:56.510]So the Greenwood Spirit gallery talks about
[00:35:59.270]how did Black folks get to Oklahoma?
[00:36:01.070]What's the relationship between Black and Native folks?
[00:36:03.890]Who were the icons who built the community?
[00:36:05.850]What were they thinking?
[00:36:07.590]Where did they get their resources?
[00:36:09.530]Things like that.
[00:36:12.050]The Arc of Oppression contextualizes the massacre.
[00:36:15.590]Talks about lynching.
[00:36:17.370]Talks about the so-called race riots that were occurring
[00:36:19.470]all throughout the United States in 1919.
[00:36:25.270]again, systems of anti-Blackness.
[00:36:27.690]That was very purposeful
[00:36:29.460]and very, very much in your face
[00:36:32.980]because we wanted to really hone in on anti-Blackness,
[00:36:38.620]not just racism in general,
[00:36:41.490]or not just oppression in general, but anti-Blackness.
[00:36:46.200]Systems that are aligned against
[00:36:49.760]Blackness or perceived Blackness.
[00:36:52.900]And so it's in that gallery that we deal with
[00:36:55.600]the massacre contextualized.
[00:36:58.140]We deal with the immediate aftermath of the massacre.
[00:37:01.320]Changing Fortunes talks about
[00:37:03.240]what happened after the devastation.
[00:37:06.390]How the community rebounded and rebuilt,
[00:37:09.480]beginning almost immediately after the devastation
[00:37:12.110]and in the face of great odds from the city of Tulsa,
[00:37:15.780]from the leadership in Tulsa and so forth.
[00:37:19.040]And Journey to Reconciliation is a gallery
[00:37:22.520]where we encourage people, again, to connect the dots,
[00:37:26.400]to think about what they've learned,
[00:37:30.980]how it's similar to, analogous to,
[00:37:33.550]events that have happened in their communities
[00:37:35.390]or nearby communities.
[00:37:37.820]What is the common thread?
[00:37:39.800]And I would argue you that
[00:37:41.260]sort of a universal common thread is this
[00:37:43.445]notion of our shared humanity.
[00:37:47.230]If each and every one of us acknowledged,
[00:37:50.070]recognized and acted upon our shared humanity,
[00:37:54.440]the massacre in Tulsa would not have occurred.
[00:37:56.180]The 1919 so-called race riots would not have occurred.
[00:37:59.700]The Holocaust would not have occurred.
[00:38:01.690]Ukraine wouldn't have occurred.
[00:38:04.370]That notion of shared humanity
[00:38:05.760]is something we need to be constantly
[00:38:07.960]and consistently reminded of.
[00:38:11.250]And in at the end of the Journey to Reconciliation gallery,
[00:38:15.060]we have a commitment space.
[00:38:16.990]We want our patrons to soak in the knowledge,
[00:38:21.300]connect the dots, but that's not the end of it.
[00:38:26.130]The real key is
[00:38:27.460]making a personal commitment to racial justice.
[00:38:31.050]What is it that you are going to do
[00:38:33.120]when you leave this facility?
[00:38:35.110]So you write that down on a computer screen,
[00:38:42.370]or you can use your phone,
[00:38:45.560]scan the code with your phone, QR code with your phone,
[00:38:49.160]and it projects on the wall on a brick.
[00:38:53.430]So, you know, I tell people,
[00:38:56.910]Arthur Ashe said something really profound
[00:38:59.130]when it comes to sort of making a difference,
[00:39:00.940]making a change, and it's,
[00:39:03.877]"Start where you are, use what you have,
[00:39:07.970]and do what you can."
[00:39:09.880]So that's, we sort of embrace that.
[00:39:12.910]Take this knowledge and then go and use it.
[00:39:16.620]Doesn't matter if you're in New York or Omaha or Juneau.
[00:39:23.200]You can use this knowledge and awareness.
[00:39:25.140]It definitely has application wherever you are,
[00:39:29.310]and whenever you are there.
[00:39:32.900]Yeah. Thank you.
[00:39:33.810]Gosh, so much Mr. Johnson.
[00:39:37.100]I am getting very inspired right now,
[00:39:40.120]but I wanted to ask you, and I notice we have a question,
[00:39:43.770]but before I turn to that,
[00:39:46.370]has anyone ever made any kind of apology,
[00:39:49.010]official or unofficial to the community?
[00:39:53.480]And would that be welcome?
[00:39:56.160]Yes and yes.
[00:39:58.460]So, for me,
[00:40:02.020]we get to this point of reconciliation,
[00:40:04.540]which is really aspirational.
[00:40:07.040]We get there in a three step process.
[00:40:12.630]Acknowledgement, apology and atonement.
[00:40:19.590]the full embrace of the history, warts and all.
[00:40:22.750]Integration into the curriculum and so forth.
[00:40:27.900]Certainly saying I'm sorry,
[00:40:29.210]but also working on creating compassion
[00:40:33.740]and empathy within, among, between people
[00:40:38.540]in a particular area.
[00:40:41.690]And then atonement is,
[00:40:45.240]you use the word reparations.
[00:40:46.856]I use the word atonement to make clear
[00:40:51.000]that it's broader than the monetary notion
[00:40:55.380]that so many people attach to reparations.
[00:40:58.200]So it's atonement in, how do we bring the community together
[00:41:05.150]and work on repairing the damage
[00:41:07.360]that we acknowledge that we have done,
[00:41:09.270]and for which we have apologized.
[00:41:12.190]So that three part process is really
[00:41:14.290]sort of important to me.
[00:41:15.180]You ask who's apologized?
[00:41:18.320]About seven or eight years ago
[00:41:19.760]I worked with the then police chief, Chuck Jordan,
[00:41:22.940]called me one day,
[00:41:24.350]and I've worked with the police on some other initiatives
[00:41:28.030]he felt that,
[00:41:29.800]he felt a calling really to make a public apology
[00:41:33.400]for the police department,
[00:41:34.970]because the police department in 1921, again,
[00:41:37.500]deputized people who destroyed the Greenwood community
[00:41:40.110]and murdered people.
[00:41:41.910]So we, together with a couple of other folks,
[00:41:45.570]we met one Saturday
[00:41:47.200]at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.
[00:41:48.940]The media were there
[00:41:50.720]and he offered a really compelling public apology
[00:41:54.760]on behalf of the Tulsa Police Department
[00:41:57.350]for their role in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
[00:42:01.240]Several of our past mayors
[00:42:03.250]and our current mayor have issued public apologies.
[00:42:06.760]The Tulsa City Council has issued a public apology.
[00:42:14.410]yes, some apologies have been made,
[00:42:18.410]but reparations or atonement,
[00:42:21.430]depending on which word you want to use,
[00:42:23.400]is really apology plus.
[00:42:25.980]So some people would argue that an apology is really empty
[00:42:30.420]without some tangible gesture
[00:42:33.230]that works to repair the damage done
[00:42:35.100]by the act that led to the apology.
[00:42:40.189]Well, I'm gonna
[00:42:41.910]ask the question that came in from our Q and A.
[00:42:46.360]I noticed that you used both race riots
[00:42:48.740]and race massacre terms.
[00:42:50.220]Is the movement now to recognize that these were not riots
[00:42:53.320]as portrayed probably in the white press,
[00:42:55.570]but that they were actually massacres?
[00:43:00.060]Yes, so in Tulsa several years ago,
[00:43:03.480]people, in particularly the Black community,
[00:43:05.540]began arguing for change in nomenclature
[00:43:11.220]to use the term massacre as opposed to race riot.
[00:43:15.940]Race riot is the historical term
[00:43:18.620]in the sense that when you do your research on this,
[00:43:23.010]and when you look at newspapers
[00:43:24.680]and when you look at documents,
[00:43:26.440]you're gonna find the word, the words,
[00:43:29.010]race riot to describe the event.
[00:43:31.990]For me, what's really important, is critical thinking.
[00:43:36.800]And whoever asked the question
[00:43:37.930]was engaged in critical thinking.
[00:43:39.840]So critical thinking, when we engage in critical thinking,
[00:43:42.540]let's ask ourselves, for me, it's five questions really.
[00:43:48.770]Who named this event?
[00:43:51.120]We look at Tulsa, who named the event?
[00:43:53.520]Who was absent from the table when the event was named?
[00:43:57.450]What's the significance of the term chosen?
[00:44:00.690]And in Tulsa, race riot is significant
[00:44:02.580]because riot really is a trigger in insurance policies.
[00:44:08.350]Many, if not most insurance policies back then
[00:44:11.220]had exclusionary clauses.
[00:44:13.620]So they wouldn't pay proceeds
[00:44:15.480]if the damage was occasioned by riot or civil unrest.
[00:44:20.050]So there was a case that actually went
[00:44:21.440]to the Oklahoma Supreme Court
[00:44:22.600]that was about that question of nomenclature.
[00:44:25.330]Was this a riot?
[00:44:27.470]And what was at stake was proceeds from insurance policies.
[00:44:31.860]And the Supreme Court said, yes.
[00:44:34.460]This was a riot within
[00:44:35.550]the meaning of the term as we know it.
[00:44:38.280]So what's the significance of the term?
[00:44:41.970]The fourth question is,
[00:44:44.920]once we know the facts on the ground,
[00:44:47.750]what alternatives are available for us to use
[00:44:51.440]to describe the event?
[00:44:54.020]With regard to the Tulsa situation,
[00:44:55.760]we could call this, certainly we could call it a riot.
[00:44:59.240]There certainly elements
[00:45:00.890]of the definition of that term riot.
[00:45:03.310]Some people have called it a white riot
[00:45:06.130]to emphasize the perpetrators.
[00:45:09.000]It has been called an assault.
[00:45:11.650]Some people choose the term,
[00:45:13.410]mostly European term, pogrom,
[00:45:16.380]because of moving people off their land
[00:45:19.650]and taking their land.
[00:45:23.440]Some people, including B.C. Franklin,
[00:45:25.760]the prominent Black lawyer
[00:45:27.180]who helped a number of the victims
[00:45:28.920]with their claims post event
[00:45:30.780]called it a Holocaust,
[00:45:32.820]because one of the keys to defining a Holocaust
[00:45:36.080]is destruction by fire.
[00:45:38.350]Some people have called this an ethnic cleansing.
[00:45:40.470]Some people have called it a genocide.
[00:45:44.580]All those terms have some application.
[00:45:47.070]Massacre of course has some application as well.
[00:45:51.820]And then the fifth question is,
[00:45:55.000]if you had sole power to name this event,
[00:46:00.380]what would you call it and why?
[00:46:03.140]So what I want folks to do when they hear the term race riot
[00:46:06.060]or when they hear the term massacre,
[00:46:07.910]is to go through this critical thinking five step process,
[00:46:12.340]because it's the thinking about the thing
[00:46:15.050]that's the most important.
[00:46:16.250]It's even more important than the thing, the final name.
[00:46:19.710]It's the process of thinking about naming
[00:46:22.580]and nomenclature and what that means.
[00:46:26.520]Yeah, that's really a wonderful explanation.
[00:46:30.970]And I think that it,
[00:46:33.200]I hear resonances with Indigenous histories as well.
[00:46:37.780]So for example, Sand Creek was called, for years, a battle,
[00:46:42.200]and it took a very long time for people to recognize
[00:46:45.090]that it was a massacre, not a battle.
[00:46:49.410]Another question I have for you is,
[00:46:52.580]I think sometimes people of goodwill
[00:46:56.170]who want to do something about this, get frustrated.
[00:47:00.230]You know, you live in a red state, we live in a red state.
[00:47:03.680]We're seeing retrenchment around educational initiatives,
[00:47:09.550]trying to stop the teaching of real hard history.
[00:47:14.220]So I think people feel like, well, I can't do anything.
[00:47:18.230]You know, because the state I live in is,
[00:47:20.580]or the city I live in isn't amenable to this.
[00:47:23.530]Are there things people can do at the grassroots level,
[00:47:26.840]at the local level, in their own communities,
[00:47:29.210]in their own churches, in their own organizations,
[00:47:34.649]to get to that atonement stage?
[00:47:38.200]To not to just dwell in denial
[00:47:42.230]or to just dwell in that first stage of acknowledgement.
[00:47:45.410]How do we get there
[00:47:46.477]and are there grassroots things we can do?
[00:47:50.520]Well, as you've seen,
[00:47:51.510]I really push these multi-prong processes.
[00:47:56.355]So, to your question,
[00:47:57.830]I think there's three aspects that are really important.
[00:48:02.610]Introspection, engagement and advocacy.
[00:48:08.560]So let's all look in the mirror
[00:48:10.860]and let's see if we are where we ought to be
[00:48:16.400]in terms of diversity, equity, inclusion in our own lives.
[00:48:21.000]Do we have diverse people surrounding us?
[00:48:23.680]Are we getting a multiplicity of perspectives
[00:48:26.810]and narratives that inform our thinking?
[00:48:31.310]That's the first thing that we all can do.
[00:48:33.950]The second thing we can do is
[00:48:35.350]engage with organizations that are already doing this work
[00:48:37.900]doing great work.
[00:48:39.560]For example, nationally,
[00:48:41.160]the YWCA has an anti-racism mission.
[00:48:45.530]So would I be supporting the YWCA?
[00:48:48.630]Locally, there are groups who have a long track record
[00:48:53.890]in promoting interracial, intercultural,
[00:48:59.970]Here, Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice
[00:49:02.083]is one such organization.
[00:49:05.540]And then in terms of advocacy,
[00:49:09.610]simply first and foremost, voting.
[00:49:13.999]Not just in federal elections,
[00:49:16.210]but voting for school board members.
[00:49:19.690]Voting for state reps.
[00:49:21.340]And these are people who are really shaping
[00:49:25.520]the discussion and the dynamics
[00:49:27.650]around these social justice issues.
[00:49:30.940]And I know that one of our political parties has
[00:49:35.865]a fairly long and frankly, quite brilliant strategy
[00:49:40.280]of working quietly at the local level
[00:49:44.100]to get people on school boards
[00:49:46.130]that really support their ideological agenda.
[00:49:50.330]And it works.
[00:49:52.520]We have to let our voices be known.
[00:49:55.429]There used to be this term silent majority.
[00:50:01.920]Sometimes I think there is a silent majority,
[00:50:05.760]but it's not what people think it is.
[00:50:07.500]It's people who really are looking for
[00:50:12.580]a more egalitarian society
[00:50:14.840]and really do promote this notion of shared humanity,
[00:50:18.850]but are just complacent.
[00:50:21.110]They're just not really engaged in the political processes
[00:50:24.750]because they find them somehow off putting,
[00:50:28.460]but we've gotta be engaged
[00:50:32.770]virtually everything is political or touched by politics.
[00:50:38.090]Maybe it's unfortunate, but that's a reality.
[00:50:40.930]So if you don't let your voice be heard,
[00:50:45.830]you're gonna be listening to voices that
[00:50:49.060]may end up sounding cacophonous to you.
[00:50:54.870]So we've got a couple more questions.
[00:50:58.340]One person asked,
[00:50:59.327]"Can you speak to the relationship between
[00:51:01.340]the African American and Native American communities
[00:51:04.180]in Tulsa in 1921,
[00:51:06.540]given the close proximity of North Tulsa to Creek land
[00:51:09.890]and the Osage history?"
[00:51:14.780]Yeah, so the Greenwood District,
[00:51:17.677]the historical Black community in Tulsa
[00:51:20.030]sits on lands that were once Native lands.
[00:51:23.720]Greenwood Rising, the history center,
[00:51:25.550]sits on what were once Muscogee Creek lands.
[00:51:30.450]And in fact,
[00:51:31.890]first thing you see when you walk into Greenwood Rising
[00:51:34.020]is a land acknowledgement to the Muscogee Creek Nation.
[00:51:37.440]Much of the rest of the Greenwood community
[00:51:39.160]sits on lands that were once Cherokee lands.
[00:51:43.420]So there's a real intricate relationship between Black folks
[00:51:46.800]and Native folks in Oklahoma that traces way back,
[00:51:52.810]actually farther back,
[00:51:53.900]but most notably back to the Trails of Tears,
[00:51:57.100]the forced migration of the so-called Five Civilized Tribes
[00:52:00.500]from the Southeast to Oklahoma.
[00:52:02.647]The Muscogee Creek, the Cherokee, the Choctaw,
[00:52:04.550]the Chickasaw, and the Seminole.
[00:52:06.150]All those tribes engaged in the practice of chattel slavery.
[00:52:09.340]All those tribes had Black folks
[00:52:11.450]among them who were enslaved.
[00:52:13.700]They also had free Black folks with them as well.
[00:52:17.140]The tribes all officially sided
[00:52:20.410]with the Confederacy during the Civil War.
[00:52:22.270]Most people don't know that.
[00:52:23.810]They executed treaties called the treaties of 1866
[00:52:27.640]that were negotiated and some signed
[00:52:29.720]in Fort Smith, Arkansas, my hometown,
[00:52:32.580]whereby all the tribes, except the Chickasaws,
[00:52:35.510]agreed in those treaties to accept
[00:52:37.730]their formerly enslaved persons as members of the tribes.
[00:52:44.000]In recent years,
[00:52:46.210]tribal membership for these so-called freedman,
[00:52:49.490]the descendants of the Black people who were enslaved,
[00:52:52.303]has been relatively controversial.
[00:52:56.130]It's been resolved in the Cherokee Nation.
[00:52:58.300]I hope people take the Cherokee Nation as an example,
[00:53:00.460]but that came on the heels of litigation
[00:53:03.190]filed by these Black folks seeking their citizenship
[00:53:06.860]based on the treaties of 1866 in the Cherokee Nation.
[00:53:10.690]So there's a really long
[00:53:12.880]and complex history involving Black folks and Native folks.
[00:53:18.020]It's not incorporated in our history books, unfortunately.
[00:53:22.720]And so most people,
[00:53:24.040]even in Oklahoma are really ignorant of this history.
[00:53:27.060]Ignorant in a dictionary sense,
[00:53:28.580]meaning sort of not knowing this history,
[00:53:31.510]but it's important.
[00:53:33.390]I did a panel with the gentleman who wrote the book
[00:53:38.950]about the Osage murders.
[00:53:42.050]I did that panel maybe about a year ago,
[00:53:44.640]and yes, those things are proximate in time.
[00:53:48.300]And I think at least one of the shared elements
[00:53:51.480]in both dynamics is this notion
[00:53:53.200]I keep going back to of shared humanity.
[00:53:56.520]These things happen when we don't acknowledge,
[00:53:59.160]recognize and engage around our shared humanity.
[00:54:03.570]That each of us is fully human
[00:54:05.570]and we need to be treated with dignity and respect.
[00:54:08.480]And when we aren't, we get a massacre.
[00:54:11.240]We get murders of the Osage to take their mineral rights
[00:54:14.860]and so forth.
[00:54:15.950]That's what happens when shared humanity is not something
[00:54:20.870]that is universally explored and shared.
[00:54:26.410]Thank you so much.
[00:54:28.220]We have just about three minutes left
[00:54:31.260]and we have one more question and then we'll wrap up.
[00:54:35.860]Is there work in Oklahoma to connect the history
[00:54:38.250]of the Black community in North Tulsa
[00:54:40.500]to the other Black communities that existed
[00:54:42.350]in the state at the same time?
[00:54:46.740]Oklahoma had a proliferation of all Black towns.
[00:54:53.620]Primarily between 1890 and 1910,
[00:54:56.250]is when those towns really, really flourished.
[00:54:59.180]Oklahoma has had more than 50 all Black towns.
[00:55:01.930]There's work now to reinvigorate these town.
[00:55:04.440]These are really small towns,
[00:55:05.590]but there's work to reinvigorate them
[00:55:08.590]in part to get them ready for cultural tourism.
[00:55:10.930]People wanna know about and experience their history.
[00:55:14.850]And the towns are working to become equipped
[00:55:19.170]to accommodate the people that wanted to see them
[00:55:21.950]and experience them.
[00:55:23.650]One of the leading towns, Boley, for example,
[00:55:26.650]has an all Black rodeo that its had
[00:55:28.330]for years and years and years.
[00:55:30.600]And they bring in really,
[00:55:32.160]literally thousands of people for this all Black rodeo
[00:55:35.120]over a Memorial day weekend.
[00:55:38.260]In many ways, the Greenwood District in Tulsa,
[00:55:41.290]which is again, part of the city of Tulsa,
[00:55:44.990]is like an all Black town within a town, right?
[00:55:48.660]It has many the elements that the all Black towns have,
[00:55:51.330]although it's part of the city of Tulsa.
[00:55:54.520]So, you know, sort of Black economics,
[00:55:57.350]Black leadership within the confines of the community.
[00:56:02.580]Really that's a dynamic
[00:56:04.070]that it shares with towns like Boley,
[00:56:06.790]Clearview, Langston, Tallahassee.
[00:56:09.100]Some of the historical all Black towns
[00:56:10.820]that dotted the Oklahoma landscape,
[00:56:14.230]primarily during the early part of the 20th century.
[00:56:16.130]There are about 12 of the all Black towns
[00:56:18.337]that are still left in existence.
[00:56:22.920]Well, thank you so much, Mr. Johnson.
[00:56:25.930]This has been so enlightening.
[00:56:27.980]I've learned so much.
[00:56:29.490]As I mentioned, as a professional historian,
[00:56:32.377]I still didn't know much about this.
[00:56:34.370]And so I just am so grateful to you
[00:56:36.690]and I'm sure our audiences is as well,
[00:56:39.610]We wish we were meeting in person,
[00:56:41.160]so we could give you a really big round of applause.
[00:56:45.410]I hope you'll accept our kind of virtual appreciation.
Log in to post comments