Goals: After this lesson, students will be able to

  • Connect past history with current places in Tulsa
  • Consider the ways segregation affected the people of Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood
  • Analyze the role that the media played in the events of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
  • Analyze the role that media plays now in our city

Read the Book: Across The Tracks

Reading Comprehension Questions;

  • What was remarkable about Emma Gurley purchasing 40 acres of land in 1906? (Note that while the book credits O.W. Gurley, the purchase was really made in his wife Emma’s name.
  • Who was the land intended for?
  • What name and two nicknames did this land eventually receive? Who gave the land the nicknames? Why is this important?
  • Why did the community grow so quickly?
  • One line from Across the Tracks reads: “Greenwood Avenue was important because it ran north for over a mile from the Frisco railroad yards. It was also one of the few streets that did not cross through both Black and white neighborhoods, allowing African Americans to have something all their own” (11). Think about the way Tulsa streets are laid out (on a grid). Why would it have been important for the Greenwood neighborhood to have a street all to themselves?
  • The book mentions the newspaper “The Tulsa Weekly Planet” – Why do you think it was important for the Greenwood community to have their own newspapers?
  • What schools existed in Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood?
  • What does it mean for a sheriff to “deputize” a citizen? How did this contribute to the violence during The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre?
  • What organization provided relief after the Massacre?
  • What was remarkable about B.C. Franklin challenging the Tulsa city ordinance that new buildings had to be built with fireproof materials?

Imagination Exercise

A note about the publisher: Megascope imprint is named after the fictional machine proposed by W.E.B Dubois. A Megascope was defined as something that could go back in history, space, and time to see realities that hadn’t been well documented. The book goes on to explain that “so much of our collective past has not seen the light of day.” This may be an interesting concept to explore with students. What parts of history would they like to use a megascope for?

Place-Based discussion

  • What colloquially does it mean to exist “Across the Tracks?”
  • Pull up the map of the Greenwood district here: (scroll down to locate). Have students find where the tracks existed.
  • Ask students what names on the map are a reference to its original designation as Indian Territory.

Student Research Project

Choose one of the entrepreneurs listed in the book – develop a knowledge card around this person.