I consider myself a lay historian who talks way too much at dinner parties, leading with questions like, “Do you know that the Erie Canal is the reason Manhattan became the economic center of America?” Some of the work I do is making historically based entertainment. Did you know our second president once defended in court British soldiers who fired on and killed colonial Bostonians — and got most of them off?
By my recollection, four years of my education included studying American history. Fifth and eighth grades, two semesters in high school, three quarters at a community college. Since then, I’ve read history for pleasure and watched documentary films as a first option. Many of those works and those textbooks were about white people and white history. The few Black figures — Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — were those who accomplished much in spite of slavery, segregation and institutional injustices in American society.
But for all my study, I never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black citizens and displaced thousands of Black Americans who lived in Tulsa, Okla.