Dear Great Book Guru, I recently read a book you recommended: RED AT THE BONE by Jacqueline Woodson. In it she mentions a defining moment in her family’s history: the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. I had never heard of this event and would like to learn more about it. Searcher of Truth
Dear Searcher of Truth, I too was dismayed by my lack of knowledge about this event in our history. RIOT AND REMEMBRANCE by James Hirsch answered a lot of my questions. Following the end of World War One, a thriving Black community grew up in Greenwood - a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greenwood, known as the “Black Wall Street” because of its wealth, successful businesses, and rich community life, was destroyed basically in one week. On May 31, 1921, a young black Tulsan had been arrested for attacking a white woman. While the charges were later dismissed and deemed highly suspect from the beginning, a local newspaper and government officials fanned rumors of a possible lynching and insurrection. Over the next few days, possibly as many as three hundred people were killed (almost all African-Americans), six thousand (all African-Americans) were interned in holding camps, and over one thousand homes and businesses (again, all African-American) were destroyed. Residents including the characters in Woodson’s novel, moved north and then there was…. silence. For decades, this massacre was excised from history. It was not taught in schools, local newspaper accounts of that week were mysteriously removed from archives, and residents refused to discuss it. Hirsch tells the story of that horrific week in precise detail and then recounts efforts to make the nation finally aware. A brutal story that will fill readers with outrage…. highly recommended!