Grandson Of Tulsa Race Riot Lawyer Returns To Green Country

Sunday, June 5th 2011, 9:17 pm
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Art and history collide at the Philbrook Museum as the grandson of a major player in the Tulsa race riot returns to Green Country.

"The common theme is all of them have doorways," said historian John W. Franklin, describing a picture of a holding cell for African slaves.

Franklin has stared down many of these doorways.

"These are the stepping-off points for the Africans that come to the Americas," Franklin said.

Before the pictures hung in a museum -- two Tulsa photographers traveled to Africa and documented the forgotten portals to a life of slavery.

The cells that held hundreds of Africans prisoner.

"The chains that held the Africans in place," Franklin said.

The sandy beach, a doorway to the vast ocean.

"When you study slavery, the slave trade officially ended in 1870, 1880, but it continued legally almost toward the end of the 19th century. And as we grow older we realize that's not that long ago," Franklin said.

And neither was 1921, the year of the Tulsa race riot.

Franklin's grandfather Buck C. Franklin was a lawyer who defended race riot survivors. He's one of many from that time honored at Tulsa's Reconciliation Park.

"My father was John Hope Franklin. Historian," he said.

John Hope Franklin was a world-renowned historian, and a graduate of Tulsa's Booker T. Washington High School.

"I'd read about all these places before I visited them," he said.

Franklin says coming face-to-face with these doorways is a history lesson like no other.

"I spent much of the morning sitting in that doorway, the doorway of no return, reflecting on our history, our past, our links to Africa," he said.

From the local connection we try to move past, to the faces of slavery half a world away.

The photographs will remain on display up on the mezzanine of the Philbrook Museum through August. The Tulsa photographers also plan to release a book about their experience.