Oklahoma Watch Religion Unplugged

Tulsa Race Massacre prayer room highlights churches’ 1921 sins, seeks healing

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

TULSA, Okla. — The words on the wall are jarring.

They are filled with racist language and victim blaming.

Worst of all, they are taken from the mouths of professed men of God — from sermons preached on the Sunday after the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

“I got emotional about some of the things that I did not know,” said state Sen. Kevin Matthews, founder and chairman of the 1921 Centennial Commission, which is commemorating the unlikely rise and devastating fall of Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street.”

Visitors such as Matthews, a Black Democrat who grew up in Tulsa but did not learn about the massacre until adulthood, experience the painful quotes through a special prayer room at the First Baptist Church. 

The Southern Baptist congregation aims to tell the truth about past sins while asking God to bring racial unity at the 100-year anniversary of an atrocity that this Oklahoma city — and the nation — tried for decades to ignore.

“As a person of faith, as a follower of Jesus, I believe that talking to God can heal a lot of things, so we got our creative people behind this,” said the Rev. Deron Spoo, whose church, founded in 1897, occupies a sprawling downtown campus.

Up a short stairway by the congregation’s main worship area, the museum-like exhibit features historical notes, photos and newspaper clippings, along with suggested prayers. 

Guests take seats on maroon-cushioned benches as they pause and bow their heads.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged. It was republished by Oklahoma Watch.

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