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Connecting to the past: Genealogy project helps Tulsans know their history

Race Massacre Descendant
Posted at 3:22 PM, Jun 07, 2024

TULSA, Okla. — In an effort to restore the Greenwood community, a new genealogy project is working to connect Tulsans to their past.

A Tulsa woman says knowing her history is helping with her future.

“Do you see Emerson hotel there,” said Jackie Weary.

Walking through the Greenwood District, Weary is proud to show off her connection to the historic place. Her grandfather, John Emerson Sr., owned the Emerson Hotel on Greenwood. He and his oldest daughter hid near the railroad tracks to escape the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921.

“My skin crawls when I think of what happened,” said Weary.

Weary has heard bits and pieces of her family history over the year but it wasn’t until a full genealogy report from the Justice for Greenwood Foundation that she had a clear picture of it.

“You really can’t know yourself unless you know your history,” said Weary.

Justice for Greenwood is looking to connect even more people to their family history. Founder Damario Solomon-Simmons said it’s an effort to rebuild the community one family at a time.

“I’m hoping that people will get connection,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons. “That people will plug in some gaps that they may have in their memory or their family history.”

While they’ve been doing this work with individuals for a little while, their first genealogy workshop is coming to town June 15th.

PHOTO tulsa genealogy project

Solomon-Simmons said connecting to this history, whether as a descendant of the Tulsa Race Massacre or people with Indian heritage, could come with practical benefits as well.

“They can start getting free healthcare,” said Solomon-Simmons. “They can start getting housing assistance.”

“It instills in me that we can be great in spite of,” said Weary.

As the history reminds Weary of her childhood, it’s also allowing her to see a future of helping others.

“You build on it from what your ancestors have left,” said Weary. “You build on it and you do greater and better and bigger things.”

The Genealogy Workshop is Saturday, June 15 from 10am-3pm. It’s taking place at OSU-Tulsa North Hall at 700 N. Greenwood Ave. Tulsa, Ok. You can text “Genealogy101” to 405-901-9520.

You can also find more information about the program here.

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