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Lesson Plan: The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre / Attack on Greenwood

Grade Level Grades 9-12


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This lesson explores the events and legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre / Attack on Greenwood. Students will view C-SPAN video clips of historians and residents of Tulsa to learn what occurred and how it was remembered. Students will use this information to discuss the importance of learning about events like this one. Video clips in this lesson contain images and descriptions of events that may be disturbing to some students. The entire lesson can be found here.


  • SET-UP:

    This lesson offers several options for you to use with your students whether you are teaching in class, using a hybrid model, or engaging through distance learning. It can be completed in steps as a class or independently by students.

    Each activity, video, and handout included in the lesson can be linked to an online discussion board or learning management system. You can also save and share the following Google handout for students to use with this lesson.

    Handout: The Tulsa Race Massacre (Google Doc)

    By making a copy of this Google Doc, you can adjust the instructions to meet the needs of your class and provide that copy to your students. Your students can also make a copy and complete the assignments digitally in the space provided.

  • WARM-UP:

    To begin class, have the students brainstorm answers to the following question. After students have had a chance to respond, discuss the students’ answers with the class.

    • Why is it important to learn about difficult moments in U.S. history?

    Provide background information on the lesson’s topic by having students view the following video on Tulsa’s Greenwood District. Using the handout, students can answer each of the guiding questions. Review the guiding questions with the class and address any misconceptions before progressing to the next step in the lesson.

    Video Clip 1: The Greenwood District Prior to the Tulsa Race Massacre (2:33)

    • How did the African American community become financially prosperous in Tulsa?
    • Why was it known as Black Wall Street?
    • Describe the types of jobs and services that were available for African Americans in the Greenwood District.
    • Why was the Greenwood District unique at the time?

    Using the handout, have students access each of the video clips that describe the events and legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Students should take notes using the chart on the handout and/or answer the questions associated with each clip. The chart has students identify important aspects of the video clips relating to the categories listed below. Students will eventually use this information to explain why it is important to learn about events like the Tulsa Race Massacre.

    • Significant Events Before, During, and After the Tulsa Race Massacre
    • Impact and Legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre
  • Video Clip 2: 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (4:48)
    • Describe the events preceding the Tulsa Race Massacre.
    • How did rumors contribute to the violence?
    • Describe the destruction of the Greenwood District.
  • Video Clip 3: Weapons and Aerial Attacks during the Tulsa Race Massacre (2:15)
    • What weapons were used by the white mob?
    • How were airplanes used during the Tulsa Race Massacre?
  • Video Clip 4: Awareness of the Tulsa Race Massacre (2:42)
    • Why were many people not aware of the Tulsa Race Massacre in the 20th Century?
    • How did awareness for the Tulsa Race Massacre increase in recent years?
  • Video Clip 5: Congressional Hearing on the Tulsa Race Massacre
    • How does Viola Ford Fletcher describe the events of the Tulsa Race Massacre?
    • What effect did this have on Viola Ford Fletcher’s life?
    • What is Viola Ford Fletcher’s perspective on how the Tulsa Race Massacre should be remembered?
  • Video Clip 6: The Legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre (3:27)
    • What were the effects of the Tulsa Race Massacre?
    • How does Hannibal Johnson describe the legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre?
    • How does the Tulsa Race Massacre fit into larger themes occurring in the United States at the time?

    Using what they learned throughout the lesson, students will engage with the prompt listed below. This can be in the form of an open classroom discussion, think-pair-share activity, or written assignment. Students should support their points with examples from the lesson.

    • Why is it important as a nation to learn about difficult events in U.S. history like the Tulsa Race Massacre?

    Exploring Greenwood- Using the New York Times interactive article, explore what life was like in the Greenwood District prior to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Using this information, describe how people’s lives in the Greenwood district were similar and different than your life. Additionally, explain how the events in the summer of 1921 changed Greenwood.

    Oral History Research- Using the audio recordings found on the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum’s website, choose one of the featured oral histories. Listen to the oral history and provide the following information.

    • Describe the person being interviewed.
    • Summarize the experience of this person.
    • How does this person’s experience relate to the events of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the attitudes of people at the time?
    • What is the legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre?
    • Why is the Tulsa Race Massacre relevant today?
    • How does the Tulsa Race Massacre fit into larger themes in U.S. history?


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