Suggested age range: older elementary and up – students need to read and write well for this activity to be a success

Goals: To utilize a constructivist pedagogy to help students

  • Celebrate the leadership of Ellis Walker Woods
  • Document major accomplishments of many people who were educated at Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington post 1921
  • Identify points of resiliency within the Greenwood district
  • Connect current sites in Tulsa with past Tulsa history

Supplies needed: Handout, pens/pencils


Print the handout following this lesson. (Do not print it double sided as you will be cutting up the paper to distribute to individual or groups of students.) Keep the answer key for yourself to reference when they share their answers.

Cut out each question so that you can distribute them to students while on the field trip.

Pre-Field Trip Discussion

(If you have time, build in this discussion based lesson plan on reconciliation before taking the field trip. The virtual Mapping Greenwood would also pair well with this lesson if you’d like to go over the events of 1921.)

Ask students: What is the goal of a memorial site?

Ask students: Can memorial sites help with the work of reconciliation? How so?

Explain the purpose of the field trip with students and talk with them about who Ellis Walker Woods was and why he is important to Greenwood district’s history

  • Born in 1885 in Missouri.
  • Attended Rust College
  • first attempted to find a teaching job in Memphis. Here he saw a flier asking for “colored teachers” in Oklahoma.
  • walked 412 miles from Memphis to Sapulpa (1911)
  • accepted several different teaching positions before being asked to be the inaugural principal of Booker T. Washington High School
  • Charismatic leader who built the school from the ground up, oversaw a new building project, started a sports program (that still receives national acclaim), and saw the school through the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (the school remained intact and became a relief center)
  • Ellis Walker Woods famously said “You are as great as 90% of the people and better than the other 10%.” (Ask students to be thinking about what this means during the field trip.)

Let students know that after the field trip, they will be responsible for sharing both their findings from the scavenger hunt as well as their thoughts to some of these questions.

Pre-Field Trip logistics

  • Decide if students will work individually or in pairs.
  • Print out copies of the student worksheet on page 7-9. Either print a copy for everyone and have students highlight the question/s they will find OR cut out the questions individually for distribution on site.
  • Keep several Bonus questions for students who finish early.
  • Decide if you will visit anywhere else while you are downtown Tulsa.
  • What else is nearby to visit? Pathway to Hope, Reconciliation Park, Greenwood Rising, Original BTW memorial, historic marker, Bench honoring Black Educators (part of Toni Morrison Society’s Bench by the Road project).

At the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial Site:

  • Let students know that the columns at the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial Site are set up by decades as this may help some of them find answers to questions. Or you might ask them to figure out the organization of the columns.
  • Distribute questions to students. (See page 7 for scavenger hunt without answers)
  • Try to pair students with their interests where possible. For example, give an athlete a question about a coach. Give an artist a questions about a cartoonist.


EWW Memorial Scavenger hunt


Q: Richard Gipson wrote a comic strip for the school newspaper in the late 1940s. What was the name of his comic strip? Note some key differences in the two comic strips posted.

A: The Masked Phantom, The first comic features a superhero and villain, while the second comic pokes fun of classmates.


Q: Who coordinated the Greenwood Arts Jubilee from 1982 until 1987?

A: Maybelle Wallace – many credit this event with helping to revitalize the Greenwood District


Q: What two BTW graduates (1931 and 1937) were considered masters of Jazz?

A: Earl Bostic (1931) and Hal Singer

Q: Who composed the Booker T Washington High School Song?

A: Carrie Booker Neely

Q: Who was considered king of early R&B and Jump Blues?

A: Roy Milton


Q: What professional golfer (and BTW) sued the PGA for not being open to black golfers?

Q: In what year was he successful?

A: William “Bill” Spiller – successful in 1961 (By contrast, the UGA was always open to black golfers and also women since its founding in the 1920s)


Q: Who bears the distinction of “Coach of the Century”?

A: Edward Lacy – he brought BTW’s football team to 5 championships and also started a wrestling program at BTW.


Q: Who is called “The quintessential Tulsan”?

A: Ellis Walker Woods – he made an almost 500 mile journey on foot from Memphis to Tulsa to respond to a call for “colored teachers”


Q: In what year were African American women allowed to enlist in the US NAVY WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Service)

Q: Who were two Booker T Washington Graduates who were accepted into this program?

A: 1944; Matrue Sims and Luberta Waters


Q: Whose denial to the American Airforce prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to create the Tuskegee Airmen in 1941?

A: Yancey Williams


Q: She served as the Dean of the School of Nursing at TU where she established their Master’s program in Nursing. She also was named to the Oklahoma State Board of Mental Health in 1984.

A: Dr. Trail Adams


Q: What 1944 BTW graduate became the first African American woman to lead a Tulsa elementary school (Walt Whitman Elementary)?

Answer: Dorothy Moses DeWitty


Q: What Booker T. Washington graduate became the Assistant Attorney General of the United States? List several of his other accomplishments.

A: Dr. George Lythcott II – Vice Chancellor at Columbia University and University of Wisconsin, Dean of CUNY Med school, Delegate to World Health Organization, Consultant to the National Academy of Science


Q: Who was Booker T. Washington High School’s first Miss Hornet (1933)?

A: Vivian Olean Phillips


Q: How did The Great Depression affect BTW? Did Greenwood businesses grow or shrink throughout the 1920s? How many businesses existed in the Greenwood neighborhood by the end of The Great Depression?

A: Booker T Washington kept their doors open throughout the depression and continued to compete in athletic and music competitions. North Tulsa business grew from just over 100 in the early 1920 to just over 600 by the end of the depression.


Q: Write out the words for the BTW school song – list several BTW alumni who lived out these words.

A: Dear Booker T. Washington High School

The pride of the great southwest.

You’re a symbol of light for many a youth

By pointing the way to life’s best.

You stand as a beacon in Tulsa,

By teaching the ideals of truth.

You inspire us with all that is worthy

And gird us for life’s greatest test.


O God help us ever grow stalwart

In body, in soul, and in mind,

That the light of dear Booker T. High School

May grow brighter and always shine.


Q: Who was the first black man to receive a juris doctorate from The University of Tulsa? He later went on to become Oklahoma’s Assistant ___________ _______________ and then a District _____________ for Oklahoma County where he served for over 30 years.

A: Charles L. Owens; Assistant Attorney General; District Judge


Q: What BTW graduate of 1951 went on to become the first black woman to be elected to the Oklahoma State Senate? What were some of her key accomplishments in this role?

A: Maxine Cissell Horner; Her legislation helped establish the Greenwood Cultural Center and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.


Q: President Roosevelt created the Tuskegee Airmen in response to what Booker T. Washington alumni’s lawsuit?

A: Yancey Williams


Q: This BTW teacher taught English and Latin. She fought for women’s right to vote and helped raise funds for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

A: Grace Mabel Andrews

BONUS QUESTIONS: students who find the answers they need quickly – these questions require a little more thought.


Who sponsored the memorial? Why is it important to consider donors?


Take a look at the list called “Partial Inventory of African American Owned Businesses in Tulsa 1920-1941. Is there anything that surprises you about this list? Keep in mind that 1921 was the year of the Massacre. Why do you think the year range is listed like this?


The memorial summarizes The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by the three small words “Tulsa was bombed.” Why do you think the memorial chose this language and not “Greenwood was bombed?” How does seeing Greenwood as part of Tulsa change our understanding of the events of The Tulsa Race Massacre?

Post Field Trip Discussion

When you return to class, have students share answers that they found on their scavenger hunt. Here are some follow up discussion questions for your class:

  • Why do you think Booker T. Washington High School wasn’t burned in the massacre?
  • How does this site challenge the idea that “Greenwood was destroyed” in 1921?
  • What is “The Greenwood spirit” and how does this memorial site speak to that?

Optional additional assignments

Post Field Trip Writing Prompt: Based on what you know/have learned about the Greenwood community, what else could be commemorated?

Post Field Trip Creative Assignment: Have students design/ draw their own version of a historical marker or monument.

Post Field Trip Reflection Exercise: Consider that E. W. Woods walked 500 miles to respond to a call in Tulsa for “colored teachers.”

Let’s imagine for a minute that we are literally “walking in his shoes.” What would that trip have been like? What might have happened had Woods not made that journey? What is the significance of knowing/ experiencing someone else’s journey and the impact they make along the way? Can this help us with personal reconciliation with others we know? What does it say about his leadership that many of his students came back to teach under him later?

How would you summarize Ellis Walker Woods’ Legacy?

Do you know your principal? What legacy do they have?