Sunday, March 12, 2023
Written by: Whitney Schwisow

White text on black background: Life in Greenwood

This museum told the story of the Tulsa Massacre through writing, pictures, holographic story telling, and video.

On Sunday we headed to Tulsa, where we first found an awesome spot for lunch called “Society”. We then headed to the Greenwood Rising Museum. This relatively new museum was constructed in remembrance of Black Wall Street. Tulsa’s Greenwood district was the home of Black Wall Street, where numerous black owned businesses flourished. They had doctors, lawyers, newspapers, hotels, theaters, restaurants, barbers, and their own school – everything they needed in the same district where many black folks lived. The district was a triumphant story of black success. Until an elevator sexual assault accusation from a white girl (no one knows what really happened) led to a white mob threatening to lynch the arrested black teenager on May 30, 1921. A group of black men went to the courthouse to protect him, and the two groups encountering each other started the infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. In this event, white mobs followed the armed black men back to the Greenwood District and began to wreak havoc. They burned buildings, ransacked homes, and fired their guns. One survivor described that night, “I could see what I thought were black birds soaring in the sky. But those weren’t birds, they were bullets and fire making bombs.” They burned 35 city blocks, and 1,256 homes burned to the ground leaving over 10,000 black people homeless. The death toll is still unknown but could be anywhere from 150-300. And worst of all, the surviving black folks were detained in internment camps as the fires dwindled, while the scope of what happened was quickly covered up by the white mobs. What once was a thriving economic area was now completely destroyed. 

Black Wall St. mural under and overpass

This mural is painted on the overpass of an interstate constructed right in the heart of the Greenwood neighborhood.

It devastates me that this chaos and intentional destruction occurred for no reason other than racism. The charges against the young black man for the sexual assault accusation were dropped, so there was no real reason for this massacre to occur. It resulted in economic devastation for the black community, and now the remnants of Black Wall Street span only about 3 blocks, which we walked together as a group. This horrific event is one that not enough people know about.

Monday, March 13, 2023
Written by: Whitney Schwisow

Brick building with the words "US Indian School"

Genoa’s Indian School only has a couple buildings and houses left standing. Faithful community volunteers keep it running by sharing the stories of those who learned here.

We trekked back to Nebraska on Monday, where we went to the grounds of the Genoa Indian Boarding School. This school was in operation from 1884-1934, and it intended to assimilate Indian children from over forty different Indian Nations. The children were allowed only to speak English, so they forgot their native tongue. The school was run in a strikingly similar manner to military ways. They learned to march and were awoken by bugles. Some children didn’t get to see their families for three years at a time. A heartbreaking poem we read talked about a six-year-old who missed his grandparents and finally got to see them at the age of nine. As he was running up to them, he realized that he had forgotten his native language in the three years he had been at school, which was all his grandparents spoke. Erasing the children’s culture hurt them in so many ways. At the school, children learned trades such as harness making and sewing. There are even three houses standing by the school that were built by boys in the school. The students also participated in extracurriculars such as sports and band, which helped me to feel a little better about what I was witnessing because at least they got to be kids and have a little fun. What surprised me about the school was how much land it encompassed: 30 buildings on 640 acres of land. Not much of the school remains today.

The poem depicting Sydney Byrd’s story.

A theme that our group found to be consistent with all of the events we learned about was the physical erasure of the memories of these historical events. Though our history holds painful events rooted in racism and injustice, we must continue to raise up these stories in an attempt to reconcile what we’ve done wrong. All of these hateful acts also remind me how important it is to love. To love our neighbor that’s struggling. To love our neighbor that follows a different religion than us. To love our neighbor that’s nothing like us because we recognize that they too are children of God – loved and worthy.

Connecting people to Christ, so they may discover their own calling as disciples.