Tulsa Historian Reacts To Obama Presidency

Tuesday, January 20th 2009, 9:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Jennifer Loren, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A Tulsa woman who's written several books about race relations and the Tulsa Race Riot was a witness to history on Tuesday.  Historian Eddie Faye Gates spoke with The News On 6 to offer a perspective seeped in knowledge about what President Obama's inauguration means to a community which has been so torn and divided by race.

In the same American city where restaurants were for whites only and the Ku Klux Klan once had a stronghold, African-American Eddie Faye Gates eats in a restaurant with her family.  They also saw a black man become president of the United States of America.

"We've been in a healing mode for a while. But, this just carried it to a higher level," said Tulsa historian Eddie Faye Gates.

Gates has studied the Tulsa Race Riot and written about it.  But, she says, Barack Obama's presidency is a new chapter that puts an end to a painful period in our history.

"We've finally dealt with it and oh what a... just tears.  Just shed.  Just tears of joy," said Eddie Faye Gates.

Gates herself, her son and even her young grandchildren have grown up keenly aware of racial prejudices.  But now, her grandson says he's keenly aware that things are different.

"I told my dad that this would be a day to remember forever.  Because we have the first African-American president," said Tulsa 6th grader Kendrik Gates.

It's a moment that will be written in history as a turning point.

To Gates and her family, this moment proves Americans can do the right thing.  They can see past the color of one's skin.

"And the main thing we did was to acknowledge that race doesn't have anything to do with who's qualified. This man has proved he is qualified. The whole nation is ready and has accepted that. So, that's just a wonderful step in the right direction," said Tulsan Eddie Faye Gates.

It's a step her grandson says he'd like to take, some day.

"I think I might be president one day or um, probably," said Tulsa 6th grader Kendrik Gates.

Gates authored the book "They Came Searching: How Blacks Sought the Promised Land in Tulsa."  She also served on the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.