That was the first time Matthews learned of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Thirty-five blocks of Black-owned businesses and homes in the affluent Greenwood District were reduced to ash in the two-day rampage. Estimates place the death toll between 100 and 300.
One of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history took place in his hometown, and Matthews, who now leads the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, never heard a word of it in school.
“That’s a very common experience of a lot of Oklahomans,” said Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public schools.
Many, like Matthews and Hofmeister, were well into adulthood when they discovered a wealthy African American district — nicknamed Black Wall Street — existed in Tulsa and that it had been razed in a spree of white violence.