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1921 Tulsa Race Massacre mural unveiling draws crowd

tulsa race massacre mural

Black Wall Street mural depicting the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, on OSU Langston campus. (Erika Stone / The Black Wall Street Times).

On Thursday morning, Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, Greg Robinson, and OSU-Tulsa leadership welcomed the new Greenwood mural on OSU-Tulsa’s campus, depicting the events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

The mural, which stands across the street from the Greenwood Cultural Center, and adjacent to Vernon AME church, was created by artist Michael Rosato, who was commissioned after Dr. Crutcher saw a painting of Harriet Tubman and her family completed by Mr. Rosato, two years ago.

Mr. Rosato, who was called to the microphone, became emotional when discussing the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and his honor in being selected to create art that reflects the tragedy. Mr. Rosato is known for his large murals, and not only painting them, but also installing each piece of artwork personally. 

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tulsa race massacre mural

Descendants of survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre stare at a mural unveiling. (Christopher Creese / The Black Wall Street Times)

Unveiling unleashes strong emotions

Drawing tears and gasps from the crowd, the mural shows a woman holding a man who appears to have been murdered during the massacre, while a white man — likely a police officer, or deputized by one — stares menacingly at the couple. In the background, the sign for the Dreamland Theatre hangs down precariously, while fire burns all around it. 

Both Dr. Crutcher and Mr. Robinson spoke at the unveiling event. Dr. Crutcher reminded the crowd that the artwork is not just for tourists to look at and snap a picture, but for all of Tulsa to embrace, no matter how difficult it is to see. Dr. Crutcher encouraged Tulsans to reflect upon Tulsa’s history — as well as the work needed to continue recognizing the shameful racism that has engulfed the city for over a century. 

tulsa race massacre mural

Dr. Crutcher (right) and former mayoral candidate Greg Robinson (left) speak at a mural unveiling of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. (Christopher Creese / The Black Wall Street Times)

Mural elevates calls for justice

Mr. Robinson echoed her sentiments, stating that Tulsa still faces challenges in educating citizens about the 1921 Race Massacre. Mr. Robinson also noted that while the Centennial crowd will eventually move on, Tulsa still faces a reckoning over reparations for the three living survivors, Viola Ford “Mother” Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, and Ellis “Uncle Red” Van Hughes, as well as their descendants.

Multifaceted artist Branjae also performed, drawing cheers of joy as well as thoughtful silence as the crowd faced the mural directly for an hour following the unveiling. 

tulsa race massacre mural

Artist Branjae performs at a mural unveiling of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. (Christopher Creese / The Black Wall Street Times.)

9 comments

Christine King May 28, 2021 - 3:06 pm

Glad you all are keeping this story alive. I heard about Black Wall Street about 15 years ago & was not aware of that taking place. Thank goodness for this 100 year remembrance for all of the lives & black own businesses being remembered. We must not loose this History. Thank God foe your continued work! Much love Christine K. From Dallas, TX.

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Robert Forister May 29, 2021 - 1:00 am

Keep it up till it happens again !!!!

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Almerth Dortch May 29, 2021 - 6:41 pm

Robert, please in the name of God don’t phrase this as being a threat. This will never happen again! Times have changed and so have people. Ok

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DewWar May 31, 2021 - 5:40 am

Got a question why is Sister holding this brother that is not a good look black men are strong and powerful and they were the ones keeping things together Beautiful artwork but not a good thing it’s making the black man look weak

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A' May 31, 2021 - 7:34 am

It’s like if you were killed and your mom held you. It doesn’t take away from your masculinity. Black men were killed, it would be ignorant not to show that. Also this was the 1920s. We were not allowed to own firearms for self defense. This was years before the existence of the Deacons For Defense, Robert F Williams and the armed defense movement. I’m not trying to be aggressive with my comment. I’m just letting you know about what our people were dealing with. If you haven’t already, checked out the books Deacons For Defense and Negroes With Guns. I never learned about the aforementioned in school. This art captures so much and the artist did an excellent job conveying the event.

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Mrs. Mama's 6 June 1, 2021 - 3:54 am

It doesn’t make the black man look weak, it makes him look dead at an early age leaving his wife and child behind because of jealousy and the color of his skin.

The black man is more likely to be killed BECAUSE he is strong and powerful. Forced to leave the women behind to “pick up the pieces” for their children either by being incarcerated or murdered.

I tearfully say this as the wife of a strong black man, mother to 3 black boys and 3 black girls, and the daughter of a murdered black father who was a deacon at our church and cab driver in Brooklyn leaving his wife a widow to raise his only daughter alone.

In my opinion the question should be, why do they murder our brothers and rape our sisters in front of our sons.

May God bless you and keep you safe.

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The Intergenerational Trauma of the Tulsa Massacre - The Jordan Institute for Families June 2, 2021 - 4:36 pm

[…] Note: Image and the full story behind the mural are found here at the Black Wall Street Journal. […]

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Jamila June 3, 2021 - 12:58 am

This event was so important…. so I’m trying to understand why of all the artists in the world, they chose a white man to do this piece that knew nothing about the events that occurred, has no tie to our diaspora, our struggle or our resilience. As an artist, I think this is severely tone deaf and was not well thought out. You cannot make me believe that that were no black muralist who could take this on. The depiction alone is offensive.
I will be writing to the organizers about this mural.
Do better.

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Tulsa Race Massacre: Knowing the history of your place with Shelley Martin-Young – Ethical ELA June 6, 2021 - 6:00 am

[…] and months of planning  took place. There were parades, vigils, speakers, and presentations. A new mural was unveiled and artists displayed their work. Museum exhibits were created and orchestras played. […]

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