Reuben Gant was living clear across the country in Buffalo when he heard the disturbing accounts of what happened.
He wasn’t taught during his time playing football at Oklahoma State or even in his childhood hometown of Tulsa, where the tragedy occurred. Gant learned about the brutal Tulsa race massacre when he was over 1,000 miles away and 22 years old; especially jarring considering his deep connections to the massacre.
“I had ancestors who were victims of the massacre,” Gant said. “It was a revelation. It was something that certainly I took an interest in and got into it feet first.”
Gant, who played NFL football for six years with the Buffalo Bills in the late '70s following his college career at OSU, has dedicated his post-football days to educating more people about the massacre and helping the Greenwood community prosper.
In an effort to help, Gant joined the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, a nonprofit organization which aims to turn racial division into future hope.
“Fifteen years ago we made the decision to step up to the plate and address issues that, at the moment and today in some respects, have been taboo,” Gant said. “Everybody finds it difficult to talk about racial issues directly.
“We recognized the only way we’d get to resolution was to address the issue head on.”
Gant said the center educates the general public by being truthful about historical facts and helping correct historical records about the massacre.
“We’re about scholarly work, we’re about unearthing untold historical facts,” Gant said. “In particular when it pertains to Greenwood and the story of Greenwood and the contributions of African Americans in the establishment of Tulsa.”
One of the center’s mantras is “From Tragedy to Triumph.” Gant said Greenwood is the perfect example of this because in the face of a massive adversity, it rebuilt itself with little help from the outside.
“To go through this tragedy of a total decimation of a community and to rebuild itself without any help or assistance from the perpetrators or the government, this community rebuilt itself stronger than it was before it was destroyed –– and that’s a triumph,” Gant said. “Our effort today is not to rebuild Greenwood in the way it was, but to revive the vibrancy of the community of Greenwood.”