Burned Out of Homes and History: Unearthing the Silenced Voices of the Tulsa Race Riot

Teaching Activity. By Linda Christensen. 20 pages.
Teaching about patterns of displacement and wealth inequality through the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

  • Time Periods: Prosperity, Depression, & World War II: 1920 - 1944, 20th Century | Themes: African American, Economics, Racism & Racial Identity | Reading Levels: High School | Resource Types: Teaching Activities (Free)

burninglandscapeIn this article, Rethinking Schools editor and language arts teacher Linda Christensen describes a section of Stealing Home, a unit she created about ways the homes of people of color have been stolen through “race riots” and “urban renewal” in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Los Angeles’ Chávez Ravine; and Portland, Oregon’s Albina neighborhood. This is the first of a two-part series about the unit.

I teach language arts, so why would I teach my students about the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot?

In language arts circles, we discuss reading as a window to the world, but in a country plagued with foreclosures and homelessness, we need to question the world we’re gazing at: How are contemporary evictions a historical reach from the past? What has happened to black and brown communities? Why do people of color have less inherited wealth than whites? The untold history—the buried stories—reveals patterns that affect our students’ current lives, from eviction notices to the hunger of deep poverty. I can wax poetic about the importance of story in students’ lives, but reading literature of poverty and despair without offering a historical explanation leaves students with little understanding about how things came to be the way they are. And that’s worth reading and writing about.


cover_raceandplaceThis lesson was published in the Fall 2012 issue of Rethinking Schools magazine issue. See Table of Contents. For more articles and lessons like this, visit Rethinking Schools.





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There are 6 comments by other visitors:

  • For an engaging exploration of this historical event through drama, see BLACK WALL STREET by Celeste Bedford Walker, directed by Aixa Kendrick. Contact: Shades of Truth Theatre via email: thetruthismarchingon@gmail.com

    Response shared by Kim — May 30, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

  • It’s a shame that our history is not discussed along with history of the Jews, being that we’ve lost more than any other race of people in the history of the world. The holocaust is always front and center while slavery and the oppression since is barely whispered about in most cases. Not fun being a part of the most hated race on the planet, but it’s the hand we were dealt by others and we shall persevere.

    Response shared by Ronald Sutton — June 1, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

  • I have never heard of this massacre ever in my life. I’m thirty eight years old. I am shocked that this is my first time hearing about this. My kids don’t even know. That’s so sad. I stay in a small town in Lamar County they even stop teaching the kids about black history.

    Response shared by amy — July 29, 2014 @ 2:33 pm

  • I heard about the story in Greenwood years ago and it was told to me by a former prison mate. Proof that lessons can come from anyone and during my years in school including college I had never heard of this story of how Mexican homes were displaced to build Dodgers stadium.

    Response shared by Anonymous — August 10, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

  • These tragedies hurt, sadden me to my core the quantity that I’ve found is unbelievable, but its the numerous untold, covered up stories that concern & worry me.

    Response shared by Selena — October 11, 2014 @ 11:20 am

  • We, our Churches, organizations, Black schools, need to take control and dessiminate our own history. How do we expect oppressed to teach us our own history. How stupid is that. If the Jewish people did that, No one would believe the German Atrocities. Why do we leave to others to verify our lives.

    Response shared by Barbara — February 9, 2015 @ 8:36 pm

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