Students win award for Tulsa Race Riots project
BY KIM ARCHER World Staff Writer
Monday, December 24, 2012
12/24/12 at 7:54 AM
View the website about the
1921 Tulsa Race Riots created
by Josh Gallegor and Preston
BROKEN ARROW - Two Sequoyah Middle School eighth-graders won a national history award for their project about a major event that doesn't even appear in many history books.
Josh Gallegor, 14, and Preston Myer, 13, won the Oklahoma Outstanding Achievement award for their seventh-grade history project and placed 10th in the nation - among seventh-graders to 12th-graders - in the National History Day competition.
"We were searching for things that were close to Oklahoma and weren't well-known," Myer said.
The pair discovered a pivotal event in Tulsa and American history they had never heard about - the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.
Sequoyah Principal Cindy Williamson said Gallegor and Myer may have started the project for a grade, but the subject drew them in.
"As they started to do the research, I think that it just really affected them so deeply that they wanted to learn more and more about it," she said. "They saw the effect that it had on the city of Tulsa and the people. I don't really think they had any idea it was going to get so big."
Myer said what most moved him was his interview with riot survivor Olivia Hooker, who was 6 years old at the time of the riot.
"She was so kind. I asked her how she felt and she said that the bullets that she heard outside flying around and hitting the house, she said, 'Mom, why is it (hailing) outside whenever it's sunny?' " he said, then paused. "That really touched me."
The boys had no expectation that they might win competitions with their website project.
"These two young men are not the type of boys who want glamour or fame," Williamson said. "It was more the love of learning."
Anita Newport, who teaches seventh-grade world geography, assigns the projects each year to her pre-Advanced Placement seventh-graders so students can get their first taste of research.
They must also prove their research matches the National History Day theme.
"It's not just a regurgitation of information like most projects are," she said. "It is an opportunity for them to take everything they've learned and apply it to a theme."
Neither Gallegor or Myer can believe that the riot remains so obscure in both Oklahoma or U.S. history books, particularly since it is regarded as one of the deadliest racial conflicts in U.S. history.
"They just didn't want to remember the shame," Myer said of those who sought to cover up the event in the years since it happened.
Although Gallegor said the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot "isn't in history books still," there have been recent efforts at the state and national level to ensure the historic riot is included.
The state has required it to be taught in Oklahoma history classes since 2000 and in U.S. history classes since 2004.
It has been in Oklahoma history books since 2009, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education,
Myer noted that the riot was sparked by a misunderstanding and fueled by racism.
"I learned that we should not judge somebody by the color of their skin," Gallegor said.
Original Print Headline: Hometown history
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
Preston Myer (left), 13, and Josh Gallegor, 14, students at Broken Arrow's Sequoyah Middle School, show their competition medals for their award-winning history project on a website about the Tulsa Race Riots. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World