OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Department of Education is developing a curriculum for teaching students statewide about the events surrounding the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.
While schools across the state have been required to teach about the massacre since 2002, state Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister said Thursday the curriculum developed at the state level follows a two-year pilot program by the Tulsa School District. It will incorporate recommendations by the Tulsa Race Massacre Commission in conjunction with descendants of victims and survivors of the violence.
“We are providing additional support to help (teachers) teach these horrific events so that students have easy access to these tools and historical documents in teaching about the Tulsa race massacre,” Hofmeister said.
The massacre happened over the course of 16 hours, from May 31 to June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses. As many as 300 people were killed, hundreds more injured and thousands were left homeless. Tulsa’s prosperous black business district known as Black Wall Street was destroyed.
After the curriculum on the massacre is provided to teachers in April, there will be professional development training for them during the summer with one-day or five- day courses at all grade levels to begin in the fall term, Hofmeister said.
State Sen. Kevin Matthews, chairman of the massacre commission, said he doesn’t believe all districts have taught the massacre, despite the state requirement.
“We’re hoping that this is put into actual textbooks and that starts with the statement,” by Hofmeister during a Wednesday news conference in Tulsa with Matthews, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, Tulsa schools Superintendent Deborah Gist and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.
“It’s important our state superintendent stood next to me and a U.S. senator and said it’s important,” Matthews said.
“A lot of things need to be done by that 100-year mark. Because quite frankly, the nation’s going to pause for a moment and it’s going to ask, what’s happened since then?” Lankford said.
Bynum said the massacre was hidden and not talked about for decades. In October 2018, he said sites in the city would be re-examined for remains of massacre victims after inspections in the late 1990s and early 2000s failed to reveal suspected graves,
The search has found possible gravesites of victims, and a test excavation is planned at one Tulsa cemetery.
Hofmeister, Gist and Matthews, all Tulsa natives, each said they were not aware of the massacre until they were adults.
“If I didn’t have an older relative who told me about it, I wouldn’t have known about it,” Matthews said.
The Tulsa massacre came two years after what is known as the “Red Summer,” when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mobs in violence around the U.S.