Linda Christensen


Why Teaching the Tulsa Race Riot Is More Than Just Teaching History

On average, whites have 20 times the wealth of blacks. Why is that?

None of my mostly African American 11th graders in Portland had ever heard of the so-called Tulsa Race Riot, even though it stands as one of the most violent episodes of dispossession in U.S. history.

The term "race riot" does not adequately describe the events of May 31-June 1, 1921 in Greenwood, a black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In fact, the term itself implies that both blacks and whites might be equally to blame for the lawlessness and violence. The historical record documents a sustained and murderous assault on black lives and property. This assault on Greenwood was met by a brave but unsuccessful armed defense of their community by some black World War I veterans and others.

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