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Arts & Culture

‘Eye-Opening’ Traveling Exhibit Reveals Atrocities of Tulsa Race Massacre

Display Will Be at School of Public Health, Its Ninth Stop on Campus, Until March 14

By Karen Shih ’09

Three people view exhibit on the Tulsa Race Massacre

A national traveling exhibit on the Tulsa Race Massacre has been making its way across the UMD campus since October. It was first displayed at Van Munching Hall, where (from left) Robert H. Smith School of Business Associate Dean for Culture and Community Zeinab Karake, UMD Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Georgina Dodge and Smith School Dean Prabhudev Konana viewed the panels.

Photo by Tony Richards

More than a century ago, a white mob burned Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street” to the ground, killing or injuring hundreds of African Americans and wiping out a prosperous, Black-majority neighborhood. But news reports were buried, and for decades, the incident was omitted from textbooks, keeping generations of students from learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Now, a national traveling exhibit that’s making its way across the University of Maryland campus during the 2021-22 school year is giving many community members their first exposure to the tragedy. The exhibit will be at McKeldin Library’s Portico Room until March 1, and then will move to the School of Public Health Building until March 14.

“As Winston Churchill said, ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.’ And this is one part of history we definitely do not want to repeat,” said Robert H. Smith School of Business Associate Dean for Culture and Community Zeinab Karake, who first brought the exhibit to campus. A naturalized U.S. citizen, she’d never encountered the incident until seeing news coverage during its 100th anniversary in May 2021—and after asking students and colleagues and realizing few of them knew about it, she had to do something.

She discovered that the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum had created a traveling exhibit, and thanks to the support of Smith leadership, including Associate Dean Victor Mullins, and the efforts of Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs Jeanette Snider and Frances Ampah MBA ’22, she was able to display the panels at Van Munching Hall in October.

“Students told us in their feedback that it was an eye-opener and that they were glad to be exposed to it,” Karake said. The Smith School also hosted reflection meeting, led by Associate Professor DeNeen Smith of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and a longtime Washington Post reporter, whose extensive coverage of the massacre contributed to the reopening of an investigation of the mass graves where victims may have been buried.

Since October, the exhibit has been displayed in nine buildings across campus, including Knight Hall and The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, to make it easily accessible to all members of the UMD community.

“The Tulsa Race Massacre is always overlooked, and we need to learn about the cost of racism—the emotional, physical, financial cost—that this country continues to pay today,” said Nneka Chisolm-Edwards, diversity, equity and inclusion officer for UMD Libraries.

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