The Tulsa Race Massacre Lectureship at Phillips Theological Seminary

Statement of Purpose

The Tulsa Race Massacre, May 31-June 1, 1921, has been identified as the worst “race riot” (riot is a misnomer) in the history of the United States. The community of Greenwood, known across America as “Black Wall Street,” was one of the most affluent African American communities in America. It was a self-determined all-Black community within Tulsa’s city limits. Famed for having all the markers of any thriving metropolis—businesses, entertainment, professionals, health services, hotels, home ownership, and proud people—the Greenwood District was a shining example of African Americans living in prosperity.

The City of Tulsa, OK, settled in 1828 by the Creek Indians in what was Indian Territory, grew from being tribal land with a trading post to railroad stop for the cattle industry to urbanization during Reconstruction and an oil town prior to statehood. Confederate culture blended with Indian life, and an ideology of freedom mingled with self-determination, Tulsa became a land of opportunity in Black and white and a prominent example of living “separate” combined with the social intolerance that exemplified social “inequality.” Separate but equal was the law of the land, but separate and unequal was the unwritten law of the white Tulsan heart. The event that precipitated the massacre began with a failed lynching that, in actuality, resulted in an entire cultural center being destroyed.

Popular descriptions of the massacre often misrepresent the context of the Greenwood District and the details of the violence. A white mob attacked Greenwood and as many of three hundred people were killed. Nearly every significant structure within the community was destroyed. Before Pearl Harbor was bombed by a Japanese aerial assault in 1941, Black Wall Street was bombed by a white Tulsan aerial assault in 1921. After Indian internment camps but before Japanese internment camps, African Americans who survived the assault in Tulsa were placed in a concentration camp like contraband during the Civil War. The history of the massacre continues to reverberate throughout Tulsa and America.

This lectureship commemorates the race massacre, suggests the lessons the history offers, and interprets the historical legacies that must be confronted. Looking back on the prominence of Black Wall Street, the role of faith within the community should not be underestimated. Within the approximately 40 city blocks that constituted Greenwood, there were 13 churches, which meant at least one church existed every three blocks. Socialized within an America that held the belief that prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing, and inheriting an African spirituality that held there is no separation between the sacred and the secular, the residents of Greenwood no doubt believed their success was God ordained. Just as religion is a synthetic feature of African cultures, religion and spirituality were the glue that help the people of the decimated Greenwood to survive. Engaging Greenwood’s prosperity as evidence of faith, and conceiving the devastation as the destruction of the household of faith, shifts the gaze from the aesthetics of inanimate buildings to the stories of human lives. The traumatic end of Greenwood is the story of how easily the Image of God can be distorted and destroyed as well as the power of resilience and resistance.

The 2024 Tulsa Race Massacre Lecture

April 29, 2024

Phillips presents a lecture by Dr. Tracey Hucks, “Religion, the Black Body, and Intimate Terror in Trinidad” to commemorate the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Dr. Tracey Hucks Bio

Dr. Hucks is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Africana Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute for Advanced StudyShe has served most recently as Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Colgate University where she has been James A. Storing Professor of Religion and Africana and Latin American Studies. Hucks previously taught at Davidson College, where she was the James D. Vail III Professor and chair of the Africana Studies Department and was chair of the Department of Religion at Haverford College. In 1995, she was a resident graduate scholar at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. A graduate of Colgate University, she earned her AM and PhD from Harvard University.  

Hucks is the author of Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism, published in 2012 and was a finalist for the American Academy of Religion First Book Award and the Journal of Africana Religions Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize.  Yoruba Traditions is a comprehensive study of the history of African American Yoruba religious practice in the United States exploring themes of religious nationalism and Africa as a sacred geo-political symbol.  It is available on for purchase at   

Her most recent book, Obeah, Orisa and Religious Identity in Trinidad: Volume One: Africans in the White Colonial Imagination was published in 2022.  In this study, Hucks traces the history of African religious repression in colonial Trinidad through the late nineteenth century. Drawing on sources ranging from colonial records, laws, and legal transcripts to travel diaries, literary fiction, and written correspondence, she documents the persecution and violent penalization of African religious practices encoded under the legal classification of “obeah.” The book is available for 30% off at Duke University Press using the code E22OBEAH.  


Prior to the lecture, there will be a reception launching the opening of Halim Flowers art exhibit, “Something New, Black Birds (2121).” The solo exhibit by the internationally known visual artist, spoken word performer, businessman, and author of 11 published nonfiction works features new work created after a visit to Tulsa, including Greenwood and Black Wall Street.  Read more about Halim's exhibition here: Art Exhibits

5:30 - Reception and art opening

6:45 - Lecture

Seating is limited. Please register below: