Tom Hanks Urges Educators to Teach Tulsa Race Massacre in Schools

On the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Tom Hanks is encouraging people to educate themselves on the dark event that he says was commonly ignored.

Tom Hanks

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images

Tom Hanks

In an op-ed published Friday in the New York Times, Tom Hanks encouraged Americans to educate themselves on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and urged schools to stop efforts to “whitewash” American history.

Looking back on the education he received about American history in schools, Hanks said he has been underinformed about race in America.

“I never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black citizens and displaced thousands of Black Americans who lived in Tulsa, Okla,” Hanks wrote. “My experience was common: History was mostly written by white people about white people like me, while the history of Black people — including the horrors of Tulsa — was too often left out.”

Reflecting on the riots in the essay, Hanks wrote that Tulsa was “never more than a city on the prairie” when he was in school. He also noted that there were similar events he never learned about in school that occurred between the end of Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, such as the 1910 Slocum Massacre in Texas.

“Should our schools now teach the truth about Tulsa? Yes, and they should also stop the battle to whitewash curriculums to avoid discomfort for students,” Hanks wrote.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when the Black neighborhood of Greenwood was destroyed by a white mob, leaving hundreds of homes, businesses, and churches burned, 300 Black Americans killed, and nearly 10,000 homeless. 

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