Published 01/15/2020 | Reading Time 1 min 23 sec
By Erika Stone-Burnett, Senior Writer
Professor Quraysh Lansana spent years studying the history of Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the 1921 Race Massacre, prior to making Tulsa his permanent home. The result of his research, writing, and education was palpable during his first Africana 3950 class at Oklahoma State University this semester: Black Wall Street, the History and Evolution of Greenwood.
During the first class, Professor Lansana — or “Q,” as he told his class to call him — reflected on the myriad of reasons for why some still referrer to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as a riot.
One explanation is both banal and also reflective of systemic and structural racism: Insurance companies used the word riot to withhold payment to Black business owners and African-American victims, claiming that their policies didn’t cover “riots.”
Another topic discussed was who owns the deed to Greenwood today?
Lansana reminded the class that the only structure left standing in Greenwood following the Race Massacre was the basement of the Historic Vernon Chapel AME Church.
For historical context, Lansana reiterated that Greenwood preceded Harlem in successful Black-owned businesses and opportunities for people of color. He added the racial pogroms of black bodies during the Red Summer that occurred throughout America prior to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Following World War I, white soldiers demanded their jobs back, just as Black families were migrating north for opportunities in factories and steel mills. Many of these clashes, in which hundreds of Black men and families were killed, are barely noted in historical texts.
The course reading list includes Black Wall Street from Riot to Renaissance by Hannibal Johnson, Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot by Scott Ellsworth, and Reconstructing Dreamland by Alfred Brophy.
If you’re thirsty for more knowledge on Black Wall Street history, you still have time to join professor Lansana’s class.
Africana 3950: Black Wall Street, The History and Evolution of Greenwood, is being offered at OSU-Tulsa campus this semester on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 8:15 pm and is open to undergraduates and non-degree seeking students who wish to attend the course.
Erika Stone-Burnett is a first-year Master of Social Work student at the University of Oklahoma, with an academic focus on antiracism, Queer Theory, policy, and community organizing. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, as well as Creative Writing, from the University of Michigan. Erika is a member of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, on the Education Committee. She works at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine as a Simulated Participant, providing innovative social simulation-based training to learners of all disciplines. In Erika’s free time, she performs improv in the local Tulsa community.