The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the country’s deadliest episodes of racial violence. Historians believe as many as 300 Black people were killed and 10,000 were made homeless after a white mob descended on a thriving Black business district. On Tuesday, June 1 at 12:30pm ET, Washington Post race and economics reporter Tracy Jan spoke with Mary Elliott and Paul Gardullo from the National Museum of African American History and Culture about what happened and the enduring impact of the century-old massacre.


Paul Gardullo, a curator from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, talks about the loss of life and livelihood following the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. “We’re talking about over 1,000 homes and businesses being razed, burned, leveled. We’re talking about hundreds of people being murdered. We’ll never know exactly how many people. There are ongoing searches for mass graves today.” (Washington Post Live)
Paul Gardullo, a curator from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, talks about the difficulty survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre faced when trying to rebuild. “There were churches that were advertising — sometimes in the Black press — nationally to help our brothers and sisters in Greenwood recoup, reclaim themselves, piece their lives back together.” (Washington Post Live)
Mary Elliott, a curator from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, says the narrative that was created about African Americans following the Tulsa Massacre “was a complete gaslighting.” “You have people who built homes, businesses, pools, churches. They built communities and then afterwards these people are stripped of everything. They’re forced into subservient positions and then the new narrative, which is really like a renewed narrative, is that they don’t appreciate education, they don’t have a sense of faith, they don’t understand community …” (Washington Post Live)
Mary Elliott, a curator from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, says she personally thinks it’s important to have a conversation about reparations for survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. “I have no idea where to start with reparations, but I know the conversation needs to happen. And I think that it’s imperative that we recognize that people were never made whole.” (Washington Post Live)

Mary Elliott

Provided by Mary Elliott.

Mary Elliott is Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). She co-curated the museum’s “Slavery and Freedom” inaugural exhibition and she is a team member of the museum’s Slave Wrecks Project. Mary also curated and wrote the special broadsheet section of the award winning New York Times featured publication entitled “The 1619 Project.”

Ms. Elliott is a graduate of Howard University and the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Prior to her work at the Smithsonian, she helped produce local history exhibits and public programs in the Washington, D.C. area, as she worked with various organizations including the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., National Visionary Leadership Project, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History.

She is an elected Council member for the American Historical Association. Ms. Elliott publishes and lectures on topics including slavery and freedom, Reconstruction, community engagement, material culture and public history. She’s worked with U.S. representatives on both sides of the aisle in both the House and the Senate. Mary served as an invited speaker at various academic institutions including Brown University and Duke University, as well as universities in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. She has been interviewed by several media outlets and programs — including CBS 60 Minutes, C-SPAN, Slate, BBC, NPR and PBS. She also had the pleasure of serving as one of several advisors for the Golden Globe winning Disney Pixar film entitled “Soul.”

Ms. Elliott has over twenty years of experience in researching and presenting African American History and culture. Her personal research focuses on Antebellum slavery, Reconstruction and African Americans in Indian Territory, with a specific concentration on Black kinship networks, migration and community development.

Paul Gardullo

Provided by Paul Gardullo.

Dr. Paul Gardullo is an historian and a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. He directs the NMAAHC’s Center for the Study of Global Slavery, which hosts or co-convenes three international collaborative initiatives, the Slave Wrecks Project and the Global Curatorial Project. The Center has also recently joined the Slave Voyages consortium.

Since 2007, Paul has worked at the NMAAHC and was part of the core team focused on building the museum’s foundational collections and conceiving and crafting its inaugural exhibitions. He curated the inaugural exhibition “The Power of Place” that contains the Museum’s exhibition on the Tulsa Race Massacre and the resilience of the Greenwood community. He is the project director for a new exhibition entitled “Make Good the Promises: Reconstruction and its Legacies” that will open with the Museum’s 5th anniversary and is co-editor of the companion volume that accompanies the exhibition.