Tom Hanks expressed his guilt over his role in an industry that “helps shape what is history and what is forgotten” in a powerful editorial for The New York Times on the massacre of the Tulsa race in 1921, which has been remarkably overlooked. In the essay, published Friday, Hanks described himself as “a secular historian,” but confessed to knowing nothing about the murder of 300 black residents at the hands of a white supremacist mob until last year.
“History has been mostly written by whites on whites like me, while black history – including the horrors of Tulsa – has too often been overlooked,” he writes. “Until relatively recently, the entertainment industry, which helps shape what is history and what is forgotten, did the same. This includes my projects.”
Hanks argues that the history of the massacre should be taught in classrooms “even as early as fifth grade” and that educators “should also stop the battle to whitewash the curriculum to avoid student discomfort. America’s history is messy but knowing that makes us a wiser and stronger people. “
Hanks also used his essay to urge the entertainment industry to consider its role in shaping the narrative as well:
Today, I believe that story-based fictional 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. Thanks to several projects currently streaming, such as Watchmen and Lovecraft Country, This is no longer the case. Like other historical documents that map our cultural DNA, they will reflect who we really are and help determine what our full history is, what we need to remember. [The New York Times]
Read the full essay on The New York Times here.