Featured

“People Have no Idea” – Author Advocates Greater Awareness of Racial History

 -  -  17


Learning about the massacre of thousands in Tulsa in 1921 doesn’t cause shame, but deepens us as human beings, Tim Madigan, the author of New York Times best-seller, “The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921,” said at a Wednesday presentation in SMU’s McCord Auditorium.

A mob of white rioters burn houses in Tulsa in 1921
A mob of white rioters burn houses in Tulsa in 1921; "Houses being burned in Tulsa June 1921" by over 26 MILLION views Thanks is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

“Systematic racism is so entrenched [in this country] because millions and millions of people have no idea about the history,” Madigan said. “As I was growing up, racism wasn’t relevant to me – probably because I didn’t see them. The only black and brown faces I saw were on TV.”

Madigan first learned the history of the massacre as a reporter in Texas when he was assigned to visit Tulsa in January 2020 for a story about the event’s anniversary. Madigan has since advocated for education about racist history in the United States – specifically Tulsa’s 1921 massacre, in which mobs of white residents attacked and destroyed affluent, predominantly Black businesses and homes in Tulsa.

A Black man killed in the 1921 Tulsa Massacre is left on the street
A Black man killed in the 1921 Tulsa Massacre is left on the street; "slain black man laying on the street with his head covered from the Tulsa Race Massacre, 1921" by over 26 MILLION views Thanks is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

The SMU Human Rights department, SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development and SMU Law professor John Vernon hosted the speech. Madigan was joined by Quraysh Ali Lansana, a lecturer of African Studies and English at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa and the acting director of the Center for Truth, Transformation and Healing.

“What happened in Tulsa was not, as I initially assumed, some historical one-off,” he said. “It was perfectly consistent with that time in history and only distinguished by its magnitude.”

Madigan also said his close friendship with children’s television star Fred Rogers helped him better understand the importance of learning about people different than himself. Madigan published his memoir, “I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers,” in 2006.

A photograph captures the physical destruction of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre ;"Tulsa Race Riots June 1921" by over 26 MILLION views Thanks is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/
A photograph captures the physical destruction of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre ;"Tulsa Race Riots June 1921" by over 26 MILLION views Thanks is licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/

“I found it so interesting that he learned a bigger connection about race and understanding of people through his personal connection (with Rogers),” said Morgan Sipp, a 20-year-old marketing major at SMU who attended the lecture.

Professor Rick Halperin, Director of SMU’s Human Rights Program, represented the Human Rights Program at the speech and encouraged students to take a human rights course and further educate themselves.

“We heard a phrase tonight, and it’s as relevant as any other in human rights, ‘I didn’t know,’” Halperin said. “Part of my job is helping you to stop saying this most dangerous phrase.”

17 recommended
164 views
bookmark icon