Shawnee (Okla.) Middle School Wins ALA’s 2021 Jaffarian Award for Tulsa Race Massacre Program

For Immediate Release
Thu, 06/03/2021


Hannah Arata

Communications Associate

ALA Public Programs Office

CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) has awarded its 2021 Sara Jaffarian School Library Program Award to Shawnee (Okla.) Middle School for their program, The Tulsa Race Massacre: Assumptions Cause Conflict in Society.

The $5,000 Jaffarian Award, supported by ALA’s Cultural Communities Fund, recognizes excellence in humanities programming in libraries that serve grades K-8.

Using the Guided Inquiry Design Framework, Shawnee Middle School eighth graders connected local Oklahoma history to contemporary events by evaluating conflicts made through assumptions.

Working both in-person and virtually when required, the students assessed art, photography and exhibit panels from the Tulsa Historical Society to see the prosperity of the Greenwood District before the Tulsa Race Massacre. The novel "Dreamland Burning" by Jennifer Latham was used to tie historical events to the present.

To conclude the program, students researched and presented on a topic where assumptions have caused conflict in society. Examples of conflicts presented by students included racism linked to the Tulsa Race Massacre and discriminatory moments in U.S. history such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Contemporary assumptions included Pitbull owners, mask-wearing during COVID-19 and the January 6 riot at the Capitol building.

Librarian Carol Jones, who co-developed the two-month program and co-planned this year’s unit with the 8th grade English Language Arts team, will present “Teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre with Guided Inquiry Design: From Struggling to Soaring” at the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) 2021 National Conference, which will be held October 21 to 23 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“An unexpected benefit of this program,” says Jones, “was that many students became teachers to their parents and grandparents on this history, since it was not commonly covered in schools. Beginning in 2019 – 2020, the state of Oklahoma requires that all students learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre, and it must be covered in 9th grade Oklahoma history courses.”

This year’s Jaffarian Award Committee was chaired by Chris Young, director of libraries at Metairie (La.) Park Country Day School. Other members included Phoebe Warmack, director of the William H. White, Jr. Library & Reynolds Family Learning Commons in Woodberry Forest, Va.; Ericka Brunson-Rochette, community librarian at Deschutes (Ore.) Public Library; and Valerie Byrd-Fort, instructor at the School of Information Science, University of South Carolina.

The Jaffarian Award is administered by ALA’s Public Programs Office in cooperation with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Applications for the 2022 award will open in February 2022. Application information, award guidelines and a list of previous winners are available at

To stay up to date on award and grant offerings from ALA’s Public Programs Office, sign up for ALA’s Programming Librarian newsletter.

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