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Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre

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Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation's history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa's Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation's history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa's Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This picture book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future.


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Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation's history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa's Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a powerful look at the Tulsa Race Massacre, one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation's history. The book traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa's Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. News of what happened was largely suppressed, and no official investigation occurred for seventy-five years. This picture book sensitively introduces young readers to this tragedy and concludes with a call for a better future.

30 review for Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre

  1. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    I first learned of the Tulsa Race Massacre from an excellent history teacher when I took African American history in high school. Recently the massacre has received newfound attention after the release of the hit HBO show Watchmen and during the summer of 2020. As a result, many Americans may have learned about it for the first time in the last year. If fully grown adults are just finding out about it now, then it is safe to assume that most children are oblivious about it as well. Carole Weathe I first learned of the Tulsa Race Massacre from an excellent history teacher when I took African American history in high school. Recently the massacre has received newfound attention after the release of the hit HBO show Watchmen and during the summer of 2020. As a result, many Americans may have learned about it for the first time in the last year. If fully grown adults are just finding out about it now, then it is safe to assume that most children are oblivious about it as well. Carole Weatherford and Floyd Cooper have produced a new children’s book about the massacre just in time for the 100th anniversary of the horrible event in June 2021. Their book is filled with beautiful illustrations, the people portrayed in it look lifelike. It also contains very specific historical details such as the incident that led to the massacre, the notable people involved, and it highlights some of the important establishments in Tulsa at the time. The Author’s and Illustrator’s notes both contain more historical information about the massacre at the end of the book. Cooper even has a personal connection to it. This book will be great for both children and adults to read so that they are knowledgeable about this important and tragic event in American history. Thanks to NetGalley, Carolrhoda Books, Carole Weatherford, and Floyd Cooper for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on February 2, 2021. Review first published in Ballasts for the Mind: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Racheal

    I've been trying and failing for some time to find a way to talk about this book in some cohesive way, so I'm just going to start writing down my thoughts and hope I land somewhere. I think this is about as bearable and accessible of an account of the Tulsa Race Massacre as could possibly exist. It manages to convey the events in a very clear-eyed way, while still allowing space for the raw emotion of it. We spend a large portion of the book considering the beauty of the community of Greenwood a I've been trying and failing for some time to find a way to talk about this book in some cohesive way, so I'm just going to start writing down my thoughts and hope I land somewhere. I think this is about as bearable and accessible of an account of the Tulsa Race Massacre as could possibly exist. It manages to convey the events in a very clear-eyed way, while still allowing space for the raw emotion of it. We spend a large portion of the book considering the beauty of the community of Greenwood as it was before May 31, 1921, the marvelous achievement and perseverance of this group of people who were determined to pull together and form a nurturing, thriving society on their own terms. We find out in the end notes that illustrator Floyd Cooper grew up hearing stories of his own grandfather's childhood in Greenwood (he talks about this on the Brown Bookshelf), and I feel like this closeness to the subject is evident in every page; this is the absolute best work I've seen from Cooper, bar none. The subtleness and breadth of humanity he renders here is breathtaking. When we get to the events leading to the massacre itself, we have a deep sense of what was lost-- the people, the businesses, the homes, the ability to build and strive, the hope that the contributions that Black citizens had made to that point would lead to more respect or better treatment. At the same time, I don't think it is told heavy handedly. There is only so much you can boil this down; the word massacre is the only apt one, and can't be ignored, and must be explained. How can you do that while looking away from its truth? You can't. And this story looks at that truth unflinchingly yet tells it with as soft a hand as possible. In the end I learned things I never knew, and I cried my eyes out over the depth of the betrayal and injustice. It's a hard story, but one that definitely needs to be remembered and discussed. Edited to add: Another reviewer commented on the dated use of the terms "Blacks" and "whites", which I'll be honest my eyes kind of skipped over. It does seem odd in a modern telling of the story.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purposes of this review. Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma was once home to a thriving African American community. On May 31st and June 1st 1921, a mob of armed white Tulsans attacked the community, killing as many as 300 African Americans and displacing 8,000 more. 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, the history of which was suppressed for seventy-five years. Unspeakable An advance, electronic copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purposes of this review. Greenwood District, Tulsa, Oklahoma was once home to a thriving African American community. On May 31st and June 1st 1921, a mob of armed white Tulsans attacked the community, killing as many as 300 African Americans and displacing 8,000 more. 2021 will mark the 100th anniversary of what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, the history of which was suppressed for seventy-five years. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre is a picture book by author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Floyd Cooper. It's short at 32 pages but aims to help young readers understand these terrible events so that "we can move toward a better future for all". It's aimed at the 8-12 years age group. Reading Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre was physically painful. In the beginning, the book describes the thriving community of Greenwood District and the high street that became known as the "Black Wall Street". The descriptions of culture, fashion and community reminded me so much of what I've read about Sophiatown and District Six in South Africa, communities with vibrant cultures that were similarly razed to the ground. Weatherford has done a fine job of simplifying the events for young readers, but presenting sufficient detail to draw older readers into healthy debate and discussion. It would be a good platform to stimulate further research and self-study too. The author's and illustrator's notes were particularly interesting, detailing their personal reasons for being involved in this work. Of particular note is the author's comment that the event was not even taught in Oklahoma schools until the twenty-first century. The illustrations by Floyd Cooper are exquisite, showcasing the fashions and vibrancy of Greenwood District, and ultimately the violence and devastation. The illustrations do a great job of bringing the events and people to life, ensuring that the reader relates to them and to the injustice of the events. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre is published by Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book and am pleased to note that it's being released in both the US and UK (and presumably around the world). Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

  4. 5 out of 5

    Molly Dettmann

    An incredible book that details this shameful and horrible moment in history that has only recently been discovered by so many. It is written for younger elementary, but the way it is delivered also works well for any age. The illustrations are gorgeous. The beautiful soft glow of Greenwood quickly turns into muted pieces that capture the gravitas and pain of the massacre. The author and illustrator notes are a must read and complete this perfect package of a book that should be in every school An incredible book that details this shameful and horrible moment in history that has only recently been discovered by so many. It is written for younger elementary, but the way it is delivered also works well for any age. The illustrations are gorgeous. The beautiful soft glow of Greenwood quickly turns into muted pieces that capture the gravitas and pain of the massacre. The author and illustrator notes are a must read and complete this perfect package of a book that should be in every school and public library that serves children and teens (and buy yourself some extra copies if you’re in Oklahoma).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Text and illustrations join together seamlessly to introduce the youngest readers to the Tulsa Race Riots, but do it in such a way that all readers— middle school, high school— will connect with this too-long-overlooked event in our country’s history. The Author’s Note and Illustrator’s Note at the end fill in details and allow readers to see why this recounting is so personal to both of them. Highly recommended. Thank you, Carolrhoda Books and NetGalley, for the electronic ARC.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    It's hard to put into words how important this book is. Carole Boston Weatherford does and incredible job of 'threading the needle' to really show how horrific and damaging this was without making it too much for young readers to handle. It's hard to put into words how important this book is. Carole Boston Weatherford does and incredible job of 'threading the needle' to really show how horrific and damaging this was without making it too much for young readers to handle.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie’s Picks: UNSPEAKABLE: THE TULSA RACE MASSACRE by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper, ill., Lerner/Carolrhoda, February 2021, 32p., ISBN: 978- 1-5415-8120-3 “The Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 concluded that the violence left from 150 to 300 people dead and more than 8,000 homeless.” --from the Author’s Note “The recent protests and public reaction to George Floyd’s murder are a testament to many individuals deep commitment to renewing the founding ideals of Richie’s Picks: UNSPEAKABLE: THE TULSA RACE MASSACRE by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper, ill., Lerner/Carolrhoda, February 2021, 32p., ISBN: 978- 1-5415-8120-3 “The Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 concluded that the violence left from 150 to 300 people dead and more than 8,000 homeless.” --from the Author’s Note “The recent protests and public reaction to George Floyd’s murder are a testament to many individuals deep commitment to renewing the founding ideals of the republic. But there is another, more dangerous, side to this debate--one that seeks to rehabilitate toxic political notions of racial superiority, stokes fears of immigrants and minorities to inflame grievances for political ends, and attempts to build a notion of an embattled white majority which has to defend its power by any means necessary. These notions, once the preserve of fringe white nationalist groups, have increasingly infiltrated the mainstream of American political and cultural discussion, with poisonous results. For a starting point, one must look no further than [former] President Donald Trump’s senior advisor for policy and chief speechwriter Stephen MIller.” -- Simon Clark, “How White Supremacy Returned to Mainstream Politics” americanprogress.org (2020) In reading analysis of last year's events, I’ve encountered several references to the Tulsa Race Massacre, the worst racial attack against Blacks in American history. Last year, THE BLACK KIDS, a story set in LA during the Rodney King riots, contained a connection to this massacre. A documentary film focusing on the Tulsa Race Massacre is set to be released this spring. Before 1921, Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood was home to a prosperous and productive Black community. Booker T. Washington characterized a stretch of Greenwood Avenue as America’s “Negro Wall Street.” Unfortunately, “in 1921, not everyone in Tulsa was pleased with these signs of Black wealth--undeniable proof that African Americans could achieve just as much, if not more than, whites. All it took was one elevator ride, one seventeen-year-old white elevator operator accusing a nineteen-year-old Black shoeshine man of assault for simmering hatred to boil over.” With bullets and firebombs, racists destroyed Greenwood and thousands of Black lives. The link between this event and today’s white supremecists makes this book compelling and timely. The Tulsa Race Massacre was a work of domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremecists, and there is a direct link between this 100-year old historic event and today’s white supremacist extremists, whom the US Department of Homeland Security labeled the most serious terror threat now facing America.. UNSPEAKABLE: THE TULSA RACE MASSACRE packs a powerful history lesson into a 32-page picture book. Award-winning illustrator Floyd Cooper’s gripping paintings portray the pride and the pain of the long-ago Greenwood community. Cooper has a talent for depicting humanity in his subjects. They sometimes stare out of the painting directly at the viewer. They seem to be demanding that the reader pay attention and react to what is going on. Now, at a time when violent white supremacy is again on the rise, UNSPEAKABLE will be of great value in helping young people understand the long history of racism in America and the threat that it poses today. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/ https://twitter.com/richiespicks [email protected]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    The term "unspeakable" is a perfect word choice for what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, described in this moving picture book. Like many others, I had only recently learned about this event in history when I read a YA book about it a couple of years ago. Certainly, it was not covered in my own high school or college history courses. Having taught history to students in those grades, I am well aware that it's a period of time that is not covered in required texts. It's downright shocking th The term "unspeakable" is a perfect word choice for what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, described in this moving picture book. Like many others, I had only recently learned about this event in history when I read a YA book about it a couple of years ago. Certainly, it was not covered in my own high school or college history courses. Having taught history to students in those grades, I am well aware that it's a period of time that is not covered in required texts. It's downright shocking that all of this was not even investigated officially for 75 years. Whenever I read books like this, I am reminded of just how much of our nation's history is rooted in bigotry and racism. The author begins her story by giving some background about the history of Greenwood, a portion of Tulsa where Blacks settled and thrived, eventually earning the area the nickname of "Black Wall Street." Using the phrase "once upon a time" almost as though she's relating a fairy tale or a cherished family story of better times, author Carole Boston Weatherford lovingly describes the various businesses and homes that filled the area and how well many of the area's Black citizens were doing. But all that ended after a rumor about an assault caused many white citizens to take matters into their own hands. Their attempts to break the suspect out of jail in order to have their way with him were thwarted, which only fanned the fires for revenge burning in the hearts of these white men. Fearing a riot from the Black community, they burned and pillaged their homes and their businesses, forcing many citizens to leave behind their possessions and flee for their lives. Although many suspected it at the time, the investigation into this massacre showed that law enforcement and city officials were to blame for the destruction. Although it is not easy to read this book and learn of these events, it's important to acknowledge what happens and to choose hope and reconciliation as Weatherford suggests on the last pages of the book. Floyd Cooper's illustrations, created with oil and erasure, give an almost eerie feel to the later pages as Greenwood is lost due to hatred, jealousy, bigotry, and gullible individuals. The earlier images show the thriving town and its proud citizens who seemed to have left all their troubles behind them--until they arrived once again. Teachers could certainly use this story as a supplement to their history texts as a vivid reminder of how parts of our nation's story have been omitted and to explain why there is often mistrust of law enforcement officials and elected officials. The Author's Note and the Illustrator's Note are not to be missed as both have personal connections to this story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Amy Pickett

    In 1921, the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a thriving Black community. A stretch of businesses known as “Black Wall Street” included restaurants, shops, salons, libraries, schools, and a hospital. But many white Tulsans resented these symbols of Black prosperity and wealth. When a nineteen-year old old shoeshine man was arrested for assaulting a white, female elevator operator, the simmering anger boiled over. Fearing that the young man would be lynched, thirty Black men clashed with In 1921, the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was a thriving Black community. A stretch of businesses known as “Black Wall Street” included restaurants, shops, salons, libraries, schools, and a hospital. But many white Tulsans resented these symbols of Black prosperity and wealth. When a nineteen-year old old shoeshine man was arrested for assaulting a white, female elevator operator, the simmering anger boiled over. Fearing that the young man would be lynched, thirty Black men clashed with two thousand white men outside the jail on May 31, 1921. The white mob then stormed Greenwood, looting and burning homes and businesses alike. Hundreds of Black people were killed and the neighborhood was completely destroyed. With spare, straightforward text, Carole Boston Weatherford presents the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre to a young audience. Floyd Cooper’s oil and erasure illustrations vividly portray the prosperity, hostility, devastation, and hope in turn. A combination of landscapes, bustling storefronts, fashions, and expressive body language indelibly portray a place in time. The Author’s and Illustrator’s Notes contain valuable insights into the events, including some information about the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park in Tulsa. Particularly with the one hundred year mark approaching in May, Unspeakable is an essential read about a too-little-known moment in U.S. history.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    I wondered how anyone could write honestly about the Tulsa Race Massacre in picture book form without traumatizing the intended audience, but Weatherford does so with grace and dignity, teaching children about this horrific event without softening its horror or going into the kinds of specific, graphic details that will give children nightmares. The best thing about this book, and the main reason why it works for children, is that the author doesn't just tell the story about the massacre, but in I wondered how anyone could write honestly about the Tulsa Race Massacre in picture book form without traumatizing the intended audience, but Weatherford does so with grace and dignity, teaching children about this horrific event without softening its horror or going into the kinds of specific, graphic details that will give children nightmares. The best thing about this book, and the main reason why it works for children, is that the author doesn't just tell the story about the massacre, but introduces readers to what this thriving Black community was like before the destruction. Instead of bringing the horror home by focusing exclusively on all of the awful, heartbreaking details, Weatherford makes her readers fell the pain by letting them appreciate everything good, strong, dependable, and beautiful that this crisis took away from the community. She provides much-needed context to the event, and helps both child and adult readers understand what the Black community in Tulsa looked like before they suffered from this racial violence. The author's and illustrator's notes also include additional historical information, explanation about the massacre's longtime erasure from history, historic photographs, and pictures of memorials. I received a temporary digital copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This beautifully illustrated story tries to do many things for the size and length of the story. It tells the story of Greenwood, the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It shows that this is not an isolated event through its minimal discussion of the alleged assault and its explanation of the black community's response to protect the accused. It tells of the importance of remembering what is forgotten and the importance of memorials. I appreciate that it focused on the story of the black comm This beautifully illustrated story tries to do many things for the size and length of the story. It tells the story of Greenwood, the Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It shows that this is not an isolated event through its minimal discussion of the alleged assault and its explanation of the black community's response to protect the accused. It tells of the importance of remembering what is forgotten and the importance of memorials. I appreciate that it focused on the story of the black community as a whole rather than the imposed narrative of a crime against a white woman. By putting the elevator ride in its proper context, there is not the need of parsing innocence and guilt (if he steps on her toe, then it is legally assault) and instead reveals the tensions in the community, and by extension, the country. It also does important work talking about memorialization and its importance. There are so many conversations this could start! And that's one thing that good children's literature can do. This is a good learning tool, but is a better springboard.

  12. 5 out of 5

    bet mercer

    As disconcerting as it is to have amazingly beautiful illustrations depicting such a tragic and terrible story, it's at least in part because of them that you deeply feel the significance of what the Black citizens of Greenwood lost and suffered. Important reading for people of all ages. This part of history needs to be acknowledged. This book is a worthy monument to all who lived through and died from the Tulsa Race Massacre. Note for adults with kids: I think the story is told in such a way, th As disconcerting as it is to have amazingly beautiful illustrations depicting such a tragic and terrible story, it's at least in part because of them that you deeply feel the significance of what the Black citizens of Greenwood lost and suffered. Important reading for people of all ages. This part of history needs to be acknowledged. This book is a worthy monument to all who lived through and died from the Tulsa Race Massacre. Note for adults with kids: I think the story is told in such a way, that you can walk through it with kids in a way they can understand and handle.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Binxie

    This heartbreaking story isn't told enough. In fact, I had no idea about it until recently. This incident is a harsh reality we need to face as a nation. The illustrations are done so well, the text is sparse yet informative, and both combine to create a haunting story of racist events in our nation's history. Unfortunately, racist events are part of our present lives as well. We have a lot of work to do. This heartbreaking story isn't told enough. In fact, I had no idea about it until recently. This incident is a harsh reality we need to face as a nation. The illustrations are done so well, the text is sparse yet informative, and both combine to create a haunting story of racist events in our nation's history. Unfortunately, racist events are part of our present lives as well. We have a lot of work to do.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I thought this book was going to be about the Tulsa Race Massacre...It was, but it was also about the amazing accomplishments and people of Greenwood. I wish I had learned this story while growing up in Oklahoma.

  15. 5 out of 5

    SpoonfulofHygge

    Such an important history lesson. I cannot thank you enough for educating me on this as I must admit I had not heard of this terrible incident that occurred in Tulsa all these years ago. This picture book shows us the before and after of a racial attack that took place in 1921 and it was hard to read. Hard, but important and so I urge all of you, big and small, to read it and learn about our history. I very much appreciated the author's and illustrator's notes at the end of the book as well as the p Such an important history lesson. I cannot thank you enough for educating me on this as I must admit I had not heard of this terrible incident that occurred in Tulsa all these years ago. This picture book shows us the before and after of a racial attack that took place in 1921 and it was hard to read. Hard, but important and so I urge all of you, big and small, to read it and learn about our history. I very much appreciated the author's and illustrator's notes at the end of the book as well as the political and societal context this horrible event took place in. Important. Pungent. Sad. Read it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    A beautiful and heart-wrenching picture book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Noelle

    Brief, but impactful. Reading has continued to show me how our education system in America is failing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Krajewski

    A beautiful book about an unspeakable tragedy. Be sure to read the author’s and illustrator’s notes at the end.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    As early as December 2020, the reviews were being published. To date, there are six starred reviews. Starred reviews from professional publications are an indicator of a book's value to the reading community and society as a whole. While a few, or sometimes many, may not agree with those professional assessments, at the very least these reviews ask us to form our own opinions by personally reading the title. What you can never know, until you hold this book in your hands and read it, is how stunn As early as December 2020, the reviews were being published. To date, there are six starred reviews. Starred reviews from professional publications are an indicator of a book's value to the reading community and society as a whole. While a few, or sometimes many, may not agree with those professional assessments, at the very least these reviews ask us to form our own opinions by personally reading the title. What you can never know, until you hold this book in your hands and read it, is how stunning it is and how justified those starred reviews are. When turning the pages of Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre (Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., February 2, 2021) written by Carole Boston Weatherford with artwork by Floyd Cooper, you truly have to remind yourself to breathe. As the events are presented in eloquent words and illuminating images, you find yourself horrified at the suffering inflicted on an entire group of people My full recommendation: https://librariansquest.blogspot.com/...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Luzuka

    3.5 👼🏾 This is a children’s book about the Tulsa massacre. A history that we should all read about. The illustrations were not in the modern style of Vashti Harrison and I initially was jarred by them, but I soon found that they transported me to that time more effectively. The facts were well written but I really missed the narrative flow of a story. I think had Carole made the story about a young child experiencing the incident, this would help add a human element that was missing for me. I did 3.5 👼🏾 This is a children’s book about the Tulsa massacre. A history that we should all read about. The illustrations were not in the modern style of Vashti Harrison and I initially was jarred by them, but I soon found that they transported me to that time more effectively. The facts were well written but I really missed the narrative flow of a story. I think had Carole made the story about a young child experiencing the incident, this would help add a human element that was missing for me. I did however appreciate the learning about something I had only heard vague reference to prior, so I appreciated learning exactly what transpired at least from the victims’ perspective. I think everyone should read this at least once. Even adults. Thank you NetGalley, Carole Boston Weatherford and Carolrhoda Books for this eARC.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Janel Bedor Griffiths

    This is a great book about a subject that deserves more attention. Highly recommended.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Bange

    What has been not much more than a footnote in Black History now has a moment in the sun on the 100th anniversary of this tragedy... Tulsa, OK had what may have been the most prosperous African American community in the U.S. - Greenwood District - until the day a young white teenage woman falsely accused an African American teenage man of assault. When a mob of disgruntled white citizens were denied the ability to lynch the young man, they crossed the railroad tracks to Greenwood, where they loot What has been not much more than a footnote in Black History now has a moment in the sun on the 100th anniversary of this tragedy... Tulsa, OK had what may have been the most prosperous African American community in the U.S. - Greenwood District - until the day a young white teenage woman falsely accused an African American teenage man of assault. When a mob of disgruntled white citizens were denied the ability to lynch the young man, they crossed the railroad tracks to Greenwood, where they looted and burned hundreds of businesses and homes, murdering people along the way. Firefighters were threatened if they tried to put out the blazes; the Tulsa police did nothing to stop them. Although many citizens returned to rebuild, others relocated. It took seventy-five years before an investigation was made of the police and city officials who had plotted with the white mob to destroy Greenwood District. Starting out as if telling a fairy tale ("Once upon a time..."), Weatherford takes great pains to paint a picture of what living in the Greenwood District was like in 1921 - describing its vitality, the difficulties its residents faced, the prosperity built up, and the pride within the community. And then she hits the big "But..." - when the story turns to the violence that rose its ugly head and destroyed the community. She closes with a note of hope as she talks about Reconciliation Park. The real beauty of this book is the strength of language that she gives to this event - to the voices of the victims of this racially-motivated attack of hate. The text is never judgemental on the white rioters; that is left for the reader to realize themselves. By repeating the opening phrase "Once upon a time" several times in the story, Weatherford keeps the text from being too heavy. Cooper, who grew up in Tulsa, brings much emotion and authenticity to this work. His art medium of oil and erasure - he refers to as "reduction art" - is perfect for this book. The dreamy, soft quality that results is perfect for showing events of the past, as if they are memories. The use of soft pastel colors for the city makes a great contrast with the dark skin tones of its inhabitants. The affluence of Greenwood District is evident in the cars, the clothing, the homes and buildings, and the faces of these proud people. Contrasting, the confusion and terror on the faces of the community when under attack is heartbreaking. One of the most striking images for me was the two-page spread of the Black man who is facing the reader with his hands in the air, eyes aimed toward the ground, and an angry white man holding a rifle in his arms standing behind him...ready to shoot. My second is the cover - with the family fleeing for their lives, each displaying one of the wide range of emotions they must have felt, with the youngest daughter looking right at the reader. Backmatter includes an author's note (with her emotional connection to this incident and more information about the massacre) and a heart-felt illustrator's note (with his personal connection to this event). Don't neglect to compare the front endsheets - an image of a prosperous Main Street by Cooper - with the back endsheets of a photograph of the destruction left behind in Greenwood District. There are a few adult books that have been published about this massacre, all written by white men. A non-fiction book is to be published in May 2021 by Child's Play; it is from a set called "The Black American Journey". It looks like many other 41-page long series books for 4th graders, with many B&W photographs to break up the text and is written by a white woman who lives in Virginia. What makes this book even more important than the others and rise up higher in importance is that this is an "Own Voices" production - a book written by a Black woman from South Carolina and illustrated by a Black man who grew up in the city this massacre happened. This book can be used with all ages - children through adults - to begin the conversation about what racism is and how its festering can explode into unspeakable acts of hate. Be sure to read this on the 100th anniversary of the massacre - May 31 - June 1, 2021. Highly Recommended for grades K-12.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on May 31st and June 1, 1921, when a armed white mob swarmed the town of Greenwood, Oklahoma, killing up to 300 Black Americans over two days and burning the prosperous town to the ground. The what massacre, you may ask? Exactly. When did any of us ever learn about this heart wrenching event in American history? If you're like me, the answer is never. I hadn't heard about the Tulsa Race Massacre until just a few years ago when This year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on May 31st and June 1, 1921, when a armed white mob swarmed the town of Greenwood, Oklahoma, killing up to 300 Black Americans over two days and burning the prosperous town to the ground. The what massacre, you may ask? Exactly. When did any of us ever learn about this heart wrenching event in American history? If you're like me, the answer is never. I hadn't heard about the Tulsa Race Massacre until just a few years ago when I read Dreamland Burning, a YA novel by Jennifer Latham. Now, however, Carole Boston Weatherford has made the events of the Tulsa Race Massacre accessible to younger readers. Written in measured, lyrical free verse, she begins her narrative as though it were a fairytale - "Once upon a time near Tulsa, Oklahoma..." painting an idyllic picture of life in the all Black prosperous town of Greenwood. She continues the use of "Once upon a time..." as she introduces the achievement of the citizens of Greenwood in building their own community. Segregation laws made it impossible for Blacks to vote, and demanded that they have separate neighborhoods, their own schools, streetcars and railroad coaches. The residents of Greenwood may have been separate, but they were very prosperous. Not surprisingly, there were almost two hundred business in Greenwood, earning it the name the "Negro Wall Street of America." Greenwood had everything a town could want - a school system, a post office, a hospital, several libraries and churches, a theater named Dreamland. But not everyone was happy about Greenwood and its flourishing citizens. Midway through Unspeakable, Weatherford drops the fairytale phase "Once upon a time... " and introduces a stark reality on a black page with white writing - "But in 1921, not everyone in Tulsa was pleased/ with these signs of Black Wealth..." A 17-year-old white elevator operator accusing a 19-year-old shoeshine man of assault was all it took to inflame an angry white mob to descend on Greenwood, killing, destroying, burning it down until nothing remained but ashes. Carole Boston Weatherford does an outstanding job in making difficult and/or little known subjects or events available and understandable for young readers and this picture book for older readers is no exception. Her language is clear and musical, and she never talks down to her readers, writing in such a way that respects their intelligence, no matter how tragic the circumstances. Dividing Unspeakable between what went into making Greenwood so successful for the African Americans living there and the destructive mob that destroyed their years of achievement really drives home her message - "...to realize the responsibility we all have/ to reject hatred and violence and instead choose hope." Weatherford's words are beautifully born out in Floyd Cooper's sepia-toned paint and erasure illustrations. I once saw him do this method in person once and I was amazed by it. Perhaps because he has a personal connection to Greenwood, Cooper has really captured both the community in all its bustling activity and the hatred and anger of mob violence. And as we have witnessed recently, it's so easy to destroy the trust and faith we have in our communities when people are motived by hate and jealousy. Back matter includes an important Author's Note and an informative Illustrator's Note. Be sure to check out the front and back endpapers to see was Greenwood really looked like before and after the mob destroyed it. This is a book that should be in every school library, classroom or home school library. If you are thinking about using Unspeakable with your classes, you can download an extensive Teacher's Guide courtesy of Lerner Books HERE. This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was an eARC gratefully received from NetGalley

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    This book is STUNNING. Emotionally wrenching. Powerful. Oh my goodness--the illustrations are breathtaking and suit the proud, then tragic and infuriating, story and tone of the text. AND! A Picture book about the Tulsa Race Massacre is so, so important. The topic and illustrations alone would justify purchase of this title. I've also been privileged to see Carole Boston Weatherford speak, and she's phenomenal. That said, some of the language is clunky in a way that would make it difficult for me This book is STUNNING. Emotionally wrenching. Powerful. Oh my goodness--the illustrations are breathtaking and suit the proud, then tragic and infuriating, story and tone of the text. AND! A Picture book about the Tulsa Race Massacre is so, so important. The topic and illustrations alone would justify purchase of this title. I've also been privileged to see Carole Boston Weatherford speak, and she's phenomenal. That said, some of the language is clunky in a way that would make it difficult for me to choose as a read-aloud for class, either for young children or high school students (yes, I use picture books with my HS students). In general, I find calling people "whites" or "blacks" dehumanizing, and think "white people" or "black people" reaffirms humanity, for example. Reducing anyone to their skin color is...not great. (Flip it to other marginalized groups: we would NEVER say "the gays" anymore--we'd say gay community, person, etc. It would be a huge language red flag to write it any other way. Likewise when referring to women as "females.") "Blacks" and "whites" feels dated for a new book written for children. Example: On one page the text reads, "...where some say Black children got a better education than whites." (This is just one example in the text. "Blacks" and "whites" are used throughout the book.) The idea is IMPORTANT! But the author doesn't mean "whites," she means "white children." I do not object to the tone of the book...But that grammar isn't even parallel, and this book is geared toward young kids who are still learning. If I REALLY want my white students to be as enraged by this unspeakable massacre enacted by violent white supremacists as my BIPOC students, I need language that centers these were people...innocent people and violent, culpable people, both. BUT. AND. I am a white woman reviewing a book describing one of the greatest tragedies and injustices leveled against black Americans in U.S. history. How much does the grammar/word choice really matter? Why nit-pick? How much does my opinion even matter when a book like this hasn't existed before? When this story NEEDS to be told? My opinion probably shouldn't count for much, but the words did pull me out of an immersive reading experience. I teach high school, grades 9-12, ages 14-19. I often use picture books in my instruction, and do actively look for nonfiction picture books to supplement resources I provide for the history/social studies department at my high school. There is so much wonderful information here, but the language gives me pause (there are other examples than what I delved into above). I will probably buy this book anyway. I want to support the author and the publisher, but the telling left me wanting. Thank you to Carolrhoda Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to preview this beautiful, wrenching, and important picture book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Brehl

    In this year of the hundredth anniversary of this tragic, criminal event in American history, several sources have pulled back the curtain on the Tulsa race Massacre on multiple stages- documentaries, scenes in films and series, releases of books for adults. As I am inclined to say, picture books, when they are a superbly rendered in text and art as this one is, can overpower those other efforts. This one does. That's not to say that the other efforts (and more) should not be widely shared and c In this year of the hundredth anniversary of this tragic, criminal event in American history, several sources have pulled back the curtain on the Tulsa race Massacre on multiple stages- documentaries, scenes in films and series, releases of books for adults. As I am inclined to say, picture books, when they are a superbly rendered in text and art as this one is, can overpower those other efforts. This one does. That's not to say that the other efforts (and more) should not be widely shared and continue to emerge. There are plenty of facts and artifacts, including eight hundred or more missing murdered bodies, still silent with their stories. Stories that should, MUST, be uncovered and shared. This astonishingly powerful picture book stands tall in the telling, though, and will continue to do so in decades to come. Illustrator Floyd Cooper's note in back pages reveals the personal story behind his compelling art, images, and persepctives. Weatherford's text is moving and magnificent, offering glimpses of the ways in which a community that was intentionally isolated and undermined because of skin color was able to rise in confidence, innovation, and success. That set the undercurrent of resentment and revenge that fueled the massacre. The details are clear and presented so that even younger audiences can connect the dots from racism to sanctioned destruction and murder. The trauma is undeniable, but the presentation makes it accessible. Back to those illustrations, beginning with the cover. Cooper has a massive talent for portraying scenes and movement and relationships among characters and their situations. But my highest admiration is for his mastery of faces. Regardless of the angle of the head or body, the engagement with self or with others, on every spread we see each character, in every case, is telling a story. Closed eyes in one case suggest panic, or desperation, or pride, or satisfaction. On the cover and on many interior pages, readers make unavoidably direct eye contact that, to me, speak volumes about the silence surrounding this story for nearly a century. Those eyes, in a variety of tones, spoke to me directly, "Are you listening now? Will you turn away? Are you ready to accept that THIS is American history, a history intentionally buried and hidden, as those many bodies had been?"

  26. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This happened in May of 1921, 100 years ago, and still, the battle remains for justice in every area of the lives of Black people. That's the first sad fact I learned in this somber telling of the Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford. The repetition of her text makes a strong statement, a tale to be told over and over again now. It was years before anyone but that community knew the truth of it. She begins with "Once upon a time" and first tells of the oil boom in the Tulsa area and This happened in May of 1921, 100 years ago, and still, the battle remains for justice in every area of the lives of Black people. That's the first sad fact I learned in this somber telling of the Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford. The repetition of her text makes a strong statement, a tale to be told over and over again now. It was years before anyone but that community knew the truth of it. She begins with "Once upon a time" and first tells of the oil boom in the Tulsa area and the growth across the tracks in the Black Greenwood community. It was highly successful with two newspapers, a hospital, banks, groceries, theaters, a grand hotel, beauty salons, and barbershops, everything that can be imagined, including good schools! There were fifteen Black doctors, one of whom was known as "the ablest Black surgeon in the nation." "Once upon a time" that community thrived, but the white community was resentful and there was tension. As the story builds in this community description, Lloyd Cooper creates the magic with scenes and faces of all those ordinary and extraordinary folks, doing work, having fun, building up their lives. Then, one day a Black shoeshine man rode an elevator and the girl operator accused him of assault. According to Weatherford's note, it seemed he stumbled and stepped on her foot. The rest of this story is what you probably imagine. A lynch mob formed, Black people from the community came to defend him. And when they were told more were coming, thousands of white people stormed, killed, and burned the people and buildings of Greenwood. The sorrow of Cooper's illustrations in those pages is not easy to see. His grandfather was one of the residents of that place, one who survived. This massacre was not even acknowledged until 1997 when the state of Oklahoma authorized an investigation into the "so-called race riot". It has since become known as a massacre. Weatherford does end with some hope, a call for all of us "to realize the responsibility we all have to reject hatred and violence and to instead choose hope". There is now what is called the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park with several cultures depicting the history of African Americans in Oklahoma. An author's and illustrator's note can be found at the end, along with several photographs.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Shaw

    Rating: 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!!!!!!!!! Book: Unspeakable-The Tulsa Race Massacre Release Date: February 2, 2021 Author: Carole Boston Weatherford Genre: Children’s Nonfiction, History Black Wall Street. That was the name of the area of Tulsa, Oklahoma where wealthy, prominent, and talented black folks lived and thrived. That was until the massacre of 1921 all because one white teenager accused a black teenager of assault during an elevator ride. This led to rumors and lies that the Black community were going to att Rating: 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!!!!!!!!! Book: Unspeakable-The Tulsa Race Massacre Release Date: February 2, 2021 Author: Carole Boston Weatherford Genre: Children’s Nonfiction, History Black Wall Street. That was the name of the area of Tulsa, Oklahoma where wealthy, prominent, and talented black folks lived and thrived. That was until the massacre of 1921 all because one white teenager accused a black teenager of assault during an elevator ride. This led to rumors and lies that the Black community were going to attack the white community which sparked the burning of this wealthy, black-owned, black-filled town. Hundreds of deaths and the displacement of thousands more. You want to know the astounding part?! It took seventy-five years for there to be an investigation. It took that long to uncover that the police conspired with the white community to rid the wealthiest black community in history. You may have heard this story. You may know more than what this book presents. But this book, Unspeakable, is so fitting to read to all ages, all races, all socioeconomic status. I really enjoyed the vibrant, lifelike illustrations. The story comes to life in a way that children of all ages should be able to understand. It should spark discussion about how what happened so long ago is not too far than what is happening in the streets right now- but without being silent for seventy-five years. I encourage you to read this book yourself as an adult, read it to your class as a teacher, read it to your kids as a parent, read it to your library book clubs as a librarian; no matter your title, this book should be read and discussions should be had. Thank you to @NetGalley @LernerPublishingGroup for an advanced copy of @Unspeakable #Unspeakable #LernerPublishingGroup #NetGalley #advancedreadercopy #ARC #Kindle #AmazonReads #childrensnonfiction #Booksofinstagram #readersofinstagram #bookstagram #nicoles_bookcellar #bookworm #bookdragon #booknerd #booklover #bookstagrammer #bookaholic

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    This nonfiction picture book offers a gripping look at one of the worst racial violence incidents in American history. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a community called Greenwood was formed by Black people descended from Black Indians, former slaves, and those fleeing the racism of the segregated South. Along a one-mile stretch of Greenwood Avenue, over 200 Black business started, becoming known as Black Wall Street. But there were people in Tulsa who were not alright with the growth of Black wealth. In 19 This nonfiction picture book offers a gripping look at one of the worst racial violence incidents in American history. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a community called Greenwood was formed by Black people descended from Black Indians, former slaves, and those fleeing the racism of the segregated South. Along a one-mile stretch of Greenwood Avenue, over 200 Black business started, becoming known as Black Wall Street. But there were people in Tulsa who were not alright with the growth of Black wealth. In 1921, those tensions turned into action when a white teen accused a Black young man of assault. A standoff at the jail resulted in the deaths of two Black men and ten white men. The white mob stormed Greenwood, burning it to the ground. 300 Black people were killed, hundreds more injured and more than 8,000 were left homeless. The survivors were moved into camps and eventually rebuilt, but never spoke of the massacre. Today, the truth is being spoken of and addressed through reconciliation efforts. Weatherford does an incredible job telling this terrible truth, showing the beauty and potential of the Black community in Tulsa and then sharing its eventual destruction at the hands of a mob. Weatherford has family ties to other race massacres in the United States, which led to her this, the worst incident. Her author’s note shares some photographs and more of the history. Weatherford’s initial focus on the community built in Tulsa, makes the the burning of the area all the more impactful for the reader. The tragedy’s magnitude is carefully shown in numbers and continued impact. Cooper’s illustrations are incredible. Cooper’s grandfather grew up in Greenwood, a history that he rarely spoke about. Cooper captures the promise of Greenwood with its libraries, churches, doctor’s offices and more. He shows the hotel, the bustling streets, the children playing safely in the neighborhood. He gives history faces that look right at the reader, demanding that they see what happened. Tragic, powerful and insistent that change happen. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    Tulsa Massacre was nearly forgotten because whites brushed it under the rug...but recently, novelists and nonfiction authors, teachers, and survivors have made sure to keep the drum beating. It was not a Riot...it was a massacre, begun with either a lie or a hideous mistake, ending in the obliteration of a community...mass graves...Americans bombed by the National Guard. Weatherford begins many of her pages with "once upon a time..." as if the story of Greenwood, OK, was a fairy tale. In a way, i Tulsa Massacre was nearly forgotten because whites brushed it under the rug...but recently, novelists and nonfiction authors, teachers, and survivors have made sure to keep the drum beating. It was not a Riot...it was a massacre, begun with either a lie or a hideous mistake, ending in the obliteration of a community...mass graves...Americans bombed by the National Guard. Weatherford begins many of her pages with "once upon a time..." as if the story of Greenwood, OK, was a fairy tale. In a way, it was. In the middle of Oklahoma, a thriving professional community of descendents of slaves was established. Booker T Washington coined the term, "Negro Wall Street" to describe Greenwood...Everything a middle-class community would want...doctors, libraries, banks...beauty salons, a great school. Not one but two newspapers. But one Black teen got onto one elevator run by one white teen, and lynch mobs descended. This book seems to follow one small family as they move to Greenwood, walk down the wide streets, enter into the community with hope for the future of their two daughters. I followed Floyd Cooper's characteristic dreamy, soft illustrations highlighting this wonderful town, and watched this family's eagerness to join this community. But once the worst happens, and mobs of whites overrun, murder, burn, loot, this family disappears...I've lost them. History lost them. I may very well be reading more into these illustrations than Cooper intended...but it's there for me to wonder about. Cooper is a native of Tulsa, and I am so grateful he undertook this project...he speaks of his grandfather, a survivor, talking to the youngsters about what happened those horrible days in May. He dedicates the book to his grandfather...it is a loving tribute. This book can introduce this difficult subject to elementary students...it can serve as a bridge for secondary students into the primary sources, into comparing and contrasting the information in the book, into researching. This is an important book, respectfully created, given to the world so we will never forget.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I am a bit ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre before last year. It was definitely not in my history books at school, but then I grew up in the Southeastern US, so honestly I'm not surprised. I originally heard of this event, in all honesty, while I was watching "Watchmen" series two, as it takes place mostly in Tulsa but they had a bit in the beginning about the massacre. And I was curious to know more about it, and so was intrigued when I learned about this book. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre before last year. It was definitely not in my history books at school, but then I grew up in the Southeastern US, so honestly I'm not surprised. I originally heard of this event, in all honesty, while I was watching "Watchmen" series two, as it takes place mostly in Tulsa but they had a bit in the beginning about the massacre. And I was curious to know more about it, and so was intrigued when I learned about this book. It is not a pleasant topic to learn about, to be sure, but an important one that should be told. The book is set in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, an out-of-the-way area where the city's African-American population ended up congregating and after many years, a thriving community and culture of well-to-do business owners and other influential people who created a loving place where everyone could feel safe. They had their own schools, banks, and restaurants. It was called  "Negro Wall Street" by author/educator Booker T. Washington. By 1921 however, not everyone was happy about the prosperity of the Tulsa neighborhood. White men began to resent the fact that these African-Americans could achieve the same, and sometimes more than their white counterparts. All it took was a young black man accidentally stepping on a white female lift operator's foot to trigger one of the most shameful events in US history. Over 300 people died and 8,000 people were displaced when it happened, and for a long time it was disguised as a "riot" instead of calling it what it actually was, a massacre of innocents. As Richie Partington, another Goodreads reviewer on Feb 22, 2021 has said: " The link between this event and today’s white supremacists makes this book compelling and timely. The Tulsa Race Massacre was a work of domestic terrorism perpetrated by white supremacists, and there is a direct link between this 100-year old historic event and today’s white supremacist extremists, whom the US Department of Homeland Security labeled the most serious terror threat now facing America." Even though the book took a cursory glance at the event, I think it would make for a good discussion for older elementary and middle school kids, especially in our current climate when kids might not understand how to process the things they see on the media. I would actually liked to have seen a bit more on the subject to better understand it, but it was a well-done book especially because of the personal connection of the illustrator. Recommended for ages 8-14, 4 stars. 

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