Restorations Of Historic Vernon AME Church Honor Legacy Of Survival: ‘This Is The Cornerstone’

Tuesday, April 13th 2021, 5:27 pm
By: Sawyer Buccy

TULSA, Oklahoma -

A historic church that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is getting an upgrade. 

"This is the cornerstone from when we first came to Greenwood. We have been landowners here ever since 1908,” said Vernon AME Church Pastor Dr. Robert R.A. Turner.  “That side is the trustees; it shows some of the famous members of our church. H.A. Guess- first black attorney. R.T. Bridgewater- one of the first black doctors."

This church has been a sanctuary, a holy place and a healing place, a place to remember, a place that survives.

"That is August 19th, 2021, two months after the race massacre," said Dr. Turner, "That is the wall that they are chiseling out right now."

The basement of the Historic Vernon AME Church survived the race massacre. Ever since Dr. Turner became Pastor here, he has been fighting for the members of his church who died in the massacre, for their families who still don't know what happened to the people they loved.

"I still feel them. I honestly still feel them. Of any church I have ever pastored, I have never considered myself the pastor of just the folks who are currently there. When you are the pastor of a church, you are the pastor of their past, present and their future," said Dr. Turner. 

After the renovations are finished, there will be a prayer wall for racial healing, open to people of every religion and background. The stained-glass windows are being restored, the basement is being transformed - and this is just the first phase.

"All of this is being done by some generous people, foundations within Tulsa that have made this possible," said Dr. Turner. 

Despite all the newness coming into this holy place, Dr. Turner said the traumas that took place here can still be felt nearly 100 years later. 

"To me it is about justice,” Dr. Turner said. “It is about the people who were here, who were killed, it is about the legacy of the folks who built this church out of the ashes.”