“We all should rise, above the clouds of ignorance, narrowness, and selfishness.”
These profound words were not created recently, although they carry as much weight and relevance today as they ever have. Instead, they were conceived nearly 150 years ago by famed orator and author Booker Taliaferro Washington.
Unfortunately, those words went unheeded years later, when the Tulsa Race Massacre left a scar on the thriving Greenwood District and “Black Wall Street” in 1921. Thirty-five city blocks were destroyed. Many people were killed. Thousands more were injured.
One of the few Greenwood District structures to survive the tragic event was a small building that sat at the corner of Elgin and Easton Avenue.
Booker T. Washington High School.
Who knew that the most influential spokesman for African Americans in the late 1890s and early 1900s would be synonymous with the survival and preservation of that famous North Tulsa neighborhood, six years after his death?
The tiny building began with only 14 students and two teachers. Following the destruction of the Greenwood area, the structure was transformed from schoolhouse to shelter, as the American Red Cross used the space to treat nearly 2,000 suddenly homeless and hurting people.
Although Booker T. Washington High School no longer resides in the Greenwood District, the school has remained a staple of North Tulsa.
BTW’s accomplishments on the athletic fields are well documented. Multiple state championships. Many alumni have gone on to play professionally in the NFL and NBA.
But the school, whose results in the classroom are just as impressive, has also created well-known critical thinkers and speakers. John Hope Franklin, a 1931 BTW graduate, is a historian and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. Franklin’s father, Buck, was a civil rights lawyer who defended many African American survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Today, the renowned institution known as Booker T. Washington High School embraces its unique connection to the Tulsa Race Massacre.
The city of Tulsa is reflecting on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in May and June with many special events, services and documentaries.
YurView will present “The Spirit of Greenwood”, a 30-minute program focused on the future of the Greenwood area and the vitality of its people, on Thursday, June 3rd at 6 pm CST.
*Airing in Tulsa and OKC – June 3rd on Channel 3 at 4:30 pm.
“The Spirit of Greenwood” replays:
June 5th – 5pm
June 6th – 4:30pm & 7:30pm
June 9th – 6pm
June 10th – 7:30pm
June 12th – 2pm