TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The commission
established to commemorate the 100th anniversary
of the Tulsa Race Massacre announced Friday that it had removed Oklahoma
Gov. Kevin Stitt
from his seat on the panel, just a week after he signed legislation prohibiting the teaching of some race and racism
concepts in public schools.
The commission made no mention of the reason for the split in a statement, and a spokeswoman said the commission had no further comment. However, commission project manager Phil Armstrong
this week sharply criticized the Republican governor
for signing a bill into law that prohibits the teaching of so-called critical race theory in Oklahoma schools.
“The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
Centennial commissioners met Tuesday and unanimously decided to part ways with governor Stitt,” according to a statement from the commission.
It went on to say that while the commission was "disappointed to part ways with governor Stitt," it was "grateful for the things accomplished together." It also stated that "no elected officials, or representatives of elected officials, were involved in this decision."
According to Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison, the Republican governor learned of his removal only after the commission issued its statement.
Stitt's role had been "purely ceremonial," and he had not been invited to a meeting "until this week," according to her statement.
The commission was formed to organize events for the anniversary of the May 31 and June 1, 1921 massacre, in which a white mob killed an estimated 300 people
and injured 800 while burning 30 blocks of Black-owned businesses, homes, and neighborhood churches in Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood, also known as "Black Wall Street." Planes were even used to drop explosives on the area, burning it down.
Armstrong said in a letter to the governor on Tuesday that the commission was "gravely disappointed" that neither Stitt nor a representative chose to attend a meeting Monday night to discuss the signing of the GOP-backed legislation on "critical race theory," which examines systemic racism and how race influences U.S. politics
, legal systems, and society.
Stitt's signing of the bill on May 7 was "diametrically opposed to the mission of the Centennial commission and reflects your desire to end your affiliation," according to Armstrong.
In a statement issued on Friday, Atchison slammed the commission's move.
“It is disappointing to see an organization of such importance expend so much effort to sow division based on falsehoods and political rhetoric two weeks before the centennial and a month before the commission is set to expire,” she said in a statement.
Another member of the commission, Tulsa state Rep. Monroe Nichols, resigned Tuesday in protest of Stitt's signing of the bill, saying it "cast an ugly shadow on the phenomenal work done over the last five years."
The commission has created and promoted programs, events, and activities to commemorate and memorialize the 1921 massacre and its victims, including “Greenwood: An American Dream Destroyed,” a month-long presentation that concludes this weekend, and “Greenwood Rising: The Black Wall Street History Center,” which will open on June 2.
Wallace was in Dallas when the story broke.