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Tom Hanks urges Americans to learn about Tulsa Race Massacre

getty: Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks is urging Americans to learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and urged schools to stop efforts to “whitewash” American history.

In a guest essay for The New York Times published Friday, Hanks reflected on the education he received about American history in schools, which often neglected the events of Tulsa and similar events across the country.

“Should our schools now teach the truth about Tulsa? Yes, and they should also stop the battle to whitewash curriculums to avoid discomfort for students,” Hanks wrote.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when the Black neighborhood of Greenwood, which was well-known as “Black Wall Street,” was burned down and looted by a white mob.

As many as 300 people are believed to have died as a result of the riots, though the exact number is unknown. About 10,000 people were also displaced as a result.

President Biden visited Tulsa earlier this week to mark the centennial of the massacre, and to unveil plans to help minority owned businesses.

Reflecting on the riots in the essay, Hanks wrote that Tulsa was “never more than a city on the prairie” when he was in school. He also noted that there were similar events he never learned about in school that occurred between the end of Reconstruction and the civil rights movement, such as the 1910 Slocum Massacre in Texas.

“The truth about Tulsa, and the repeated violence by some white Americans against Black Americans, was systematically ignored, perhaps because it was regarded as too honest, too painful a lesson for our young white ears,” Hanks said.

“It seems white educators and school administrators … omitted the volatile subject for the sake of the status quo, placing white feelings over Black experience — literally Black lives in this case,” he continued.

Hanks further wrote that the omission of Tulsa from history was “tragic, an opportunity missed, a teachable moment squandered.”

Tags Joe Biden Tom Hanks tulsa race massacre
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