Meet the 22-year-old 'Gen Z Historian' who uses Tiktok to share the truth behind some of history's most whitewashed moments

·4 min read
TikTok Gen Z Historian Khalil Greene in front of a ring light.
22-year-old Kahlil Greene made history as the first Black student body president of Yale. Now he's using TikTok to debunk commonly held beliefs about American history.Courtesy Kahlil Greene
  • Kahlil Greene has more than 500,000 TikTok followers who watch him to learn about race and history.

  • The 'Gen Z Historian' uses TikTok to talk about underexplored or unknown parts of Black history.

  • "So much of what society thinks of as 'cool' originates from African American culture," Greene said.

A 22-year-old Black creator is using TikTok to teach his thousands of followers the truth about Black history.

Kahlil Greene is a self-professed "Gen Z Historian" who aims to reveal the reality behind some of history's lesser-known or misunderstood moments, with a focus on exploring the contributions made by Black Americans. Over the past year and a half, he's built a devout fanbase of more than 500,000 TikTok followers, and is part of a new class of social media stars using their platforms to question what they were taught in high school history class.

Exploring hidden histories

Greene graduated from Yale in 2021 and was the university's first-ever Black student body president.

He posted his first Tik Tok video that year to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"I noticed the intense amount of whitewashing that happens on MLK Day and felt I had to do something about it," he told Insider. "The only quotes from MLK in the mainstream or on social media are super positive, super optimistic, and don't mention anything about race or class or any of the other things MLK fought for."

The video garnered more than 1.4 million views.

 

Greene uses TikTok to reframe cultural moments through the lens of Black American history and calls out non-Black creators and artists — Awkwafina and Bretman Rock among them — who have co-opted Black culture.

"When it comes to social media, social currency becomes literal currency," he told Forbes in February. "Clout equals profits, and a lot of ways that creators, especially non-black creators, gain this clout is by taking elements or cultural contributions from the Black community, performing them to a majority non-black audience, and getting fame, clout, and profits for it."

Recently, Greene's been exploring Black culture through a series called Hidden History, where he shares what he calls "creepy, crazy, and covered-up aspects of US history," like the Tulsa Race Massacre, in which a white mob killed 300 African Americans, burned 35 city blocks, and destroyed over 1,250 houses. In another video, Greene breaks down the pledge of allegiance's role in "mass assimilation and indoctrination" and explores how the national anthem perpetuates slavery.

TikTok Gen Z Historian Khalil Greene speaking into a microphone
"So much of what society thinks of as 'cool' originates from African American culture," Greene told Insider. "I hope to raise awareness of this and help give people the credit they deserve."Courtesy Khalil Greene

 

Kyle T. Mays, an assistant professor of African-American studies at UCLA, stresses that while the medium of TikTok may be unique, Greene's work exists on a long continuum with other Black educators, like Carter G. Woodson, a Black scholar whose work preempted the creation of Black History Month.

Giving Black people 'the credit they deserve'

Greene talks about things "you can't just learn in history class," said Mays. His TikToks are "part of a wider movement in popular culture and social media whereby oppressed peoples can share their history and traditions."

In one of his most recent series, "How Everything on this App Originated with Black People," Greene dissects how "most of Gen Z culture is just a whitewashed version of Black American culture" and highlights how apps like TikTok make it easier for non-Black people to appropriate Black culture and history.

For example, widely used terms like "no cap" and "simp" originated in Black American vernacular.

 

"So much of what society thinks of as 'cool' originates from African American culture," Greene told Insider. "I hope to raise awareness of this and help give people the credit they deserve."

 





Read the original article on Insider