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Knowledge is power

New online curriculum explores historic Greenwood and the Race Massacre of 1921

Dr. Dewayne Dickens helped create an online resource portal to help people understand Greenwood’s past and present.

Greg Bollinger

The John Hope Franklin Center has unveiled a resource portal to help teachers, researchers and citizens learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Black Wall Street, and the Greenwood District.

The curriculum resource portal includes official documents as well as survivor stories, photos, video interviews and discussion guides. The page, which is accessible at the Center’s website, was unveiled during the John Hope Franklin National Symposium in May.

“We [want to be] the resource page for scholars, for educators, for community members to find a lot of information and then create whatever story they are trying to tell,” said Dewayne Dickens, chair of the Center’s National Symposium, who helped in the creation of the portal.

During the portal’s launch, Dickens noted that the story of Greenwood is not only for North Tulsa. “It is a shared story: Tulsa. Oklahoma. The United States,” he said.

The resource portal includes information about the people and places of Greenwood, before and after the Massacre. “We’re constantly contending with the … interpretation of what the facts are,” Dickens said. “If we can get a common agreement that these are the basic facts, we want to share those stories.”

Vanessa Komara created the Center’s website and helped design and implement the curriculum resource portal. She said there were several educators on the curriculum committee, which met during two workshops lasting eight to nine hours, giving them a chance to dive deep into the resources and information available. “I’m really excited about it,” she said.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission has also developed curriculum for students. The Center’s resource portal is separate from that, Dickens noted.

The Center’s portal will include pictures and video, alongside information about what it was like to grow up in Greenwood after the Massacre. This, Dickens believes, will help share more insight into the resilience of the neighborhood. “People will consistently say that it’s terrible that Greenwood disappeared in 1921 without recognizing that—yes, it was destroyed—however, within a year or two, it was back and larger than it was. So they are missing that rebuilding, that sense of resilience that goes with the story,” he said. “If we don’t share also the stories of the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, then they are missing a major chunk of the Greenwood story.”

The curriculum includes discussion guides about how to discuss tough community topics in a way that includes multiple voices. “It becomes a difficult conversation for anyone visiting the park when they become part of the story,” Dickens said. The portal also includes links to other workshops and materials, including templates of lesson plans.

“It’s a start,” he said. “That’s really a big difference between ours and some of the others. We’re not trying to provide one curriculum that you teach every year and that’s all you have to worry about … what we are providing are different lesson plans that have worked for different ages.”

The all-volunteer committee worked for about a year to create the page, which will be continually updated. The project started with a grant from Tulsa Community College.

There is a link for individuals to make comments that will be reviewed on a regular basis. Contributors can also submit photos, lesson plans, survivor stories and significant people of Greenwood.  There is also a virtual tour of the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park.

“What this offers is more of the story,” he said. “As educators, our concern is the person who writes the history—that’s the only version you have. But in order for a student to own the history, they have to question things.”