Skip Navigation

OSU-Tulsa workshop helps contextualize the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre for teachers

Published: Thursday, August 20, 2020

More than 60 educators from Oklahoma and across the nation participated in Oklahoma State University-Tulsa’s four-day long “Teaching & Learning: The Narratives, Places, and Legacies of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre” workshop series designed to give teachers resources and context for how to teach students about the event.

"Before this workshop I thought I was educated on these events, but now I think I will be learning more along with my students," one participant said. Another said the workshop’s reminder to “localize humanize and ground history” will now be an all-encompassing theme in their classroom.

“We want to equip teachers with proven tools they can take back to their classrooms and engage students in lessons and discussions about the massacre,” said Shanedra Nowell, OSU associate professor of secondary education and program facilitator. “It’s important to empower teachers with knowledge and context on this deliberately buried history.”

This year’s workshop was conducted virtually as the nation continues the effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Many of the features of last year’s in-person workshop continued online this year, such as the exploration of stories from victims and survivors and discussion of how culture and folklife can provide different lenses to unpack the events of the massacre for deeper learning. New content included online videos and galleries, as well as a cultural mapping activity. Upon completing the workshop, teachers were given a variety of digital resources to access any time.

Guest speakers included poet, OSU-Tulsa Africana studies faculty and writer-in-residence Quraysh Ali Lansana, the Rev. Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon Chapel A.M.E. Church and leaders from the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation. Other guests included Oklahoma Humanities executive director Caroline Lowery, folklife specialist Guha Shankar from the Library of Congress, artist and actor Vanessa Adams Harris and Tulsa Community College’s Director of Culturally Responsive Practices Dewayne Dickens.

The participants dove into decades of context beyond the events of the massacre itself, engaging with oral histories, video interviews, newspapers and even postcards.

"I came into this workshop thinking I needed deeper historical knowledge and resources for the events of the massacre itself, but now I understand how important it is to have resources and stories to contextualize and discuss the reality of life before and after the massacre as well," one teacher said.

Developed by the OSU Writing Project, OSU’s Oklahoma Oral History Research Program, and Local Learning, the education division of the American Folklore Society, this workshop is part of OSU-Tulsa’s ongoing commitment to educating about the Tulsa Race Massacre. The campus is located in the heart of downtown Tulsa’s Greenwood District, where the massacre occurred.

For Turner, educating about the Tulsa Race Massacre is about more than learning history – it is about making it.

“We have a chance to impact history today,” he told attendees. “And every day we don’t, we compound the problem.”

For digitized articles and documents regarding the Tulsa Race Massacre, visit the website of the OSU-Tulsa Library’s Ruth Sigler Avery collection.

For resources parents and teachers can utilize to discuss racism with their children, check out OSU-Tulsa and TulsaKids Magazine’s Dismantling Racism Toolkit.

Dr. Shanedra Nowell and Vanessa Adams-Harris address educators on day 2 of the workshop series.

Media Contact: Aaron Campbell | 918-594-8046 |