LANSING, Mich., June 1, 2021 — Today marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre, when Black homes and businesses were attacked, resulting in one of the deadliest episodes of racial violence in American history. While today should be a day to reflect on the history of our nation before and since the massacre, Republicans aim to erase this dialogue with the introduction of legislation preventing the teaching of American history as it pertains to race, going so far as to take funding away from school districts that teach about systematic racism and oppression.
“For generations, one of the worst acts of racial violence on a thriving Black community was left out of the history books, brushed over and forgotten,” said state Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Detroit), chair of the Detroit Caucus. “We cannot go back to a time when we do not remember or commemorate these struggles. This includes the story of Mary E. Jones Parrish, a journalist who chronicled the Tulsa Massacre and whose account was unknown even to her own great-granddaughter until her 30s. While Mary’s great-granddaughter has now published her work to share the truth about what happened in Tulsa, this bill would eliminate Mary’s first-hand account from classrooms. It’s unsettling that Republicans would want to erase Mary and countless other survivors from our history. Conversations around the importance of the Tulsa Massacre are critical to students. They need to be able to make connections about why history matters to them today.”
“These bills not only hinder debate and thwart the free exchange of ideas in our schools, but they also play a part in whitewashing America’s history,” said state Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield), chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. “Instead of commemorating Black Wall Street and reflecting on the lives that were lost in the Tulsa Massacre, Republicans want to rewrite and prohibit educators from exploring history in classrooms. Because these discussions enable students to see how people, voices and cultures were treated and represented throughout history, students have become more involved in shaping the world around them – encouraging America to be more equal and just for everyone. This needs to be encouraged, not stifled.”
“We know that the past and present are interconnected,” said state Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), 1st vice chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. “This should be clearer than ever after our nation was rocked by the recent killings of George Floyd, Dante Wright, Breonna Taylor and others. Students are going to have questions and need to learn about all our history – even when that history is painful and challenging to hear. We need to teach our students that the Tulsa Massacre and other historical events still affect us today because of how deeply it is ingrained in our society. Instead, Republicans would rather keep our students ignorant of their history, putting us all at risk of suffering those darker days again.”