by Carole Boston Weatherford
and Floyd Cooper
“Once upon a time near Tulsa, Oklahoma … ” There is promise in the opening pages of this picture-book history as the Black community in the booming city of Tulsa prospers in the early 20th century. Although they couldn’t escape racism and segregation in Tulsa, Black people built the 10,000-strong, thriving Greenwood neighborhood. In 1921, a young Black man was accused by a young white woman of assault. He was arrested, and a white mob intent on lynching him clashed with Black men intent on protecting him, leaving 12 dead. Then the mob descended on Greenwood. “Once upon a time in Greenwood,” up to 300 Black people died, more than 8,000 were left homeless, “and hundreds of businesses were reduced to ash.” A later investigation determined “police and city officials had plotted with the white mob to destroy the nation’s wealthiest Black community.” Author Carole Boston Weatherford’s affecting account of the tragedy and the racism behind it is followed by an author’s note that includes additional information about the unfounded arrest of the young Black man, “who either stumbled or stepped” onto the foot of the young white woman. Illustrator Floyd Cooper, who grew up in Tulsa and whose illustrations capture the dignity of individuals and the vibrancy of the community, as well as anger, chaos and fear, writes about his grandfather, whose memories of the massacre were how he learned about it as a child, noting it was never spoken of in school. (Ages 8-12)
CCBC Choices 2022. © Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2022. Used with permission.
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre brings to life tragic events that transpired over a century ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The prosperous Black community in the Greenwood district thrived in what has often been referred to as the “Black Wall Street.” When a 17-year-old white woman accused a Black man of “assaulting” her, the consequential confrontations resulted in innumerable deaths and the utter destruction of this amazing community. Weatherford and Cooper chronicle this critically important historic event in a sensitive, caring manner for young children. Powerful endpapers, created in Cooper’s muted palette and oil-erasure technique, depict the smoking ruins of the destruction. This historic nonfiction text documents an often untold significant historic event and reminds us all of the importance of shedding light on our past.
Announcing the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award 2022 Winners and Honor Books. © Jane Addams Peace Association, 2022. Used with permission.
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.
Publisher description retrieved from Google Books.