A $25 million expansion, renovation, and rebranding of the Greenwood Cultural Center could open before the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The project would include a large addition designed to convey the story of Greenwood before and after the riot.
“There's a lot of history here,” says Vickie Brackenn, a Tulsan, as she brought family members into the Center to see newspaper articles and old photos of Greenwood. She remembers Greenwood in the 1950s, after it was rebuilt in the ’20s, and before it was disrupted by urban renewal projects in the 1970s.
She pointed to a photo of the Rex Theater. “Everybody remembers that everybody my age remembers that because we all went there.”
Today there is a small outdoor race riot memorial, that’s fallen in disrepair, and the Cultural Center is the main repository for the history, but has neither the space nor the resources to fully showcase the history of Greenwood.
Phil Armstrong, the Project Director for the Race Massacre Centennial Commission, believes a history center would serve as a strong anchor for the area. “There are so many people not just in the United States, but all over the world, who want to hear more about the African American struggle.”
Tulsa's philanthropic community has pledged to help build it, and a national fundraising campaign just getting started. A firm with world-class experience was hired to create the exhibits. Tulsa's next Vision package includes $5.5 million dollars for it. Including the Vision money not yet approved by voters, Armstrong says the funding is at $18 million dollars while the project is expected to cost $25 million. Tulsa companies and foundations are being asked to help, and many already have made pledges.
Armstrong said he’s encouraged by the amount of support for a proper museum dedicated to Greenwood. “The drawings, the renderings, the building of the history center, the renovation of this center, it's so that story can be told.”
Now 98 years since the massacre, with time passing and memories fading, there is now momentum to build it, and an urgent timeline to open it - in time for the new attention o the massacre on the centennial in 2021.