3 books on the Tulsa Race Massacre you should pay attention to 100 years after the attack
There are also a ton of TV and film projects about the tragedy hitting the small screen this weekend
Several new film, TV and book projects highlight the deeply disturbing truths about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, where Black families, professionals, and children were murdered and brutalized by racists who burned their town to the ground.
As the centennial anniversary of the tragic event nears, plenty of people are working to help educate the masses on one of the darkest days this country has ever experienced.
There are tons of projects hitting the small screen that will offer insight and perspective on what went down in the bustling Greenwood area of Tulsa, including Stanley Nelson and Russell Westbrook’s HISTORY documentary, Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, as well as Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten on PBS. On Tuesday, OWN will unveil The Legacy of Black Wall Street and on Monday night, CBS will debut a one-hour CBS News primetime special, Tulsa 1921: Am American Tragedy.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the onscreen offerings, here are 3 books to check out if you’re looking to read up on the history:
The Nation Must Awake
Mary Parrish was reading in her home when the Tulsa race massacre began on the evening of May 31, 1921. Parrish’s daughter, Florence Mary, called the young journalist and teacher to the window. “Mother,” she said, “I see men with guns.” The two eventually fled into the night under a hail of bullets and unwittingly became eyewitnesses to one of the greatest race tragedies in American history.
“The Nation Must Awake: My Witness to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921” is Parrish’s first-person account, along with the recollections of dozens of others, compiled immediately following the tragedy. Spurred by word that a young Black man was about to be lynched for stepping on a white woman’s foot, a three-day riot erupted that saw the death of hundreds of Black Oklahomans and the destruction of the Greenwood district, a prosperous, primarily Black area known nationally as Black Wall Street. The murdered were buried in mass graves, thousands were left homeless, and millions of dollars worth of Black-owned property was burned to the ground. The incident, which was hidden from history for decades, is now recognized as the single worst episode of racial violence in the United States.
Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
This book is a searing new work of nonfiction from award-winning author Brandy Colbert about the history and legacy of one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American history.
But how did it come to pass? What exactly happened? And why are the events unknown to so many of us today?
These are the questions that award-winning author Brandy Colbert seeks to answer in this unflinching nonfiction account of the Tulsa Race Massacre. In examining the tension that was brought to a boil by many factors—white resentment of Black economic and political advancement, the resurgence of white supremacist groups, the tone and perspective of the media, and more—a portrait is drawn of an event singular in its devastation, but not in its kind. It is part of a legacy of white violence that can be traced from our country’s earliest days through Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement in the mid–twentieth century, and the fight for justice and accountability Black Americans still face today.
A Promise Deferred: The Massacre of Black Wall Street
In the acclaimed children’s book co-written by inclusion expert Dr. Tamecca Rogers and her son Keith Ross, Keith’s Grandma tells him about the events of May 1921. The book starts with some of the colorful characters and business owners who once graced the Greenwood District. Throughout the story, Keith is both horrified by what happened and proud of how Black people created this business district. He is also inspired to learn how they helped one another.
Keith learns the importance of telling the truth, of getting facts right before taking action, that violence is never an option, and that we should accept all people regardless of color. He also decides he wants to become an entrepreneur like the business owners of Black Wall Street.
“I have lived in Oklahoma most of my life, but I just learned about the massacre of the Greenwood district a few years ago. In order to graduate from high school, we had to pass Oklahoma history, but this tragic event was not mentioned in any of the textbooks, nor had my ten-year-old son heard of it. Together, we were inspired to write about it from a child’s perspective,” says Rogers.
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