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Tulsa Race Massacre to be focus of 2021 spring Presidential Dream Course

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Tulsa Race Massacre

Black Wall Street in the Greenwood District of Tulsa burns during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

OU will offer a Presidential Dream Course about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre during the 2021 spring semester. 

The Presidential Dream Course will be open to all students to explain the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre and commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the violent attack against the city’s Black community, according to a webpage about the course. It will be taught by OU professors Rilla Askew, Meta G. Carstarphen and Karlos Hill. 

On the night of May 31, 1921, Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” — a prosperous Black community — suffered a violent attack from white Tulsans after a rumor that a Black boy raped a white girl spread, according to the webpage. The mob of angry white people destroyed 35 square blocks of the city, decimating churches, hotels, restaurants, drugstores, doctor’s offices, grocery stores and libraries. Nearly 300 Black people were killed during the massacre.

According to the webpage, the course will feature guest speakers, analyze the historical facts and media response to the event and encourage discussion. Students will work with Assistant Director of the Office of Digital Learning John Stewart to compile their work in the course into a digital humanities final project.

Askew, an assistant English professor, will teach the creative writing portion of the course. In an interview with The Daily, she said it is important for people to know the details of the massacre, and she is looking forward to spreading awareness about the event.

“The misconception is that (the Tulsa Race Massacre) is like other race riots that happened in the mid to late 20th century, and it was nothing like that,” Askew said. “(It) was an assault. Now, I think that's changing. We want our course — and our students — to be a part of that change that continues.”

Askew said in addition to teaching students the historical background of the event, the course will aim to help students understand the scope of racism and racial violence in Oklahoma’s history. She said although the event took place in Oklahoma, the ramifications were felt across the entire nation. 

“We all have to bear witness to this horrific event that happened here,” Askew said.

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