Tom Hanks: ‘It Made Me Mad’ That I Never Heard About the Tulsa Massacre Until Two Years Ago

US actor Tom Hanks attends a press conference for the film "Elvis" during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 26, 2022. (Photo by Julie SEBADELHA / AFP) (Photo by JULIE SEBADELHA/AFP via Getty Images)
JULIE SEBADELHA/AFP via Getty Images

Actor Tom Hanks still feels anger over not learning about the Tulsa Massacre until just two years ago, alleging that white people edited it out of the history books.

During an appearance on the Another Act podcast, the Forest Gump star talked about never learning about the Tulsa Massacre throughout all of his education and even throughout his own studies during his adult life.

“I read a New York Times piece on a hundred-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre, and my question was this, ‘What’s the Tulsa Massacre?’” Hanks said. “You know, I was taught American history every three years growing up … how is it that it wasn’t until two years ago that I heard about the Tulsa Massacre?”

“How is that possible? … I heard about all kinds of disasters in which people died,” he added. “But I had never heard about this thing that happened in 1921.”

Hanks then recalled all of the famous history lessons throughout his life, from The Alamo to Little Big Horn, and never once hearing of the Tulsa Massacre.

“I tell you, at the age of 10, when I was in fifth grade, living in Oakland, California, that would’ve been a moment of enlightenment for me,” he said. “That would’ve told me something very, very different about the city I lived in. Not just American history or the city of Tulsa.”

Hanks chalked his ignorance of the Tulsa Massacre down to the simple whitewashing of American history in order to comfort white Americans instead of giving them the full truth.

“Nobody alive today is guilty of it,” he said. “Nobody alive today is to blame for it except perhaps the people who said let’s not talk about it. That’s not right. We should be able to talk about all of these aspects so they will teach us more of the fabulous story of our diverse history.”

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The Cast Away actor expressed a similar frustration over the Tulsa Massacre in an op-ed for New York Times last year.

“For all my study, I never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black citizens and displaced thousands of Black Americans who lived in Tulsa, Okla,” Hanks wrote.

“History was mostly written by white people about white people like me, while the history of Black people — including the horrors of Tulsa — was too often left out,” he added.

Hanks further praised Hollywood for giving a platform to these historical narratives with shows like Watchmen and Lovecraft Country.

“Today, I think historically based fiction entertainment must portray the burden of racism in our nation for the sake of the art form’s claims to verisimilitude and authenticity. Until recently, the Tulsa Race Massacre was not seen in movies and TV shows,” he wrote.

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