The burning Massacre, destruction, and the Tulsa race riot of 1921

Tim Madigan, 1957-

Book - 2001

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New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press 2001.
1st ed
Physical Description
297 p. : ill
Includes index.
Main Author
Tim Madigan, 1957- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Madigan provides a riveting account of one of the most shameful episodes in the troubled history of race relations in the U.S. On June 1, 1921, a mob of angry white citizens descended on Greenwood, the prosperous black quarter of Tulsa, Oklahoma, burning the thriving community and torturing and killing African American residents. Assigned to do a newspaper piece on the curiously overlooked incident nearly 80 years later, the author, a self-described "ignorant white boy," expanded his story into a stunning book chronicling Tulsa's "terrible secret." Utilizing firsthand accounts from both African American survivors and white witnesses, he has pieced together the events precipitating the riot as well as the senseless and brutal horror of the actual massacre. This cultural and sociological dissection of a twentieth-century tragedy makes difficult but compelling reading. ((Reviewed November 1, 2001)) Copyright 2001 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Journalist Madigan (See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh's Holy War) here tackles one of America's worst race riots, chronicling the shocking events of May 31 and June 1, 1921 when a white mob numbering in the thousands obliterated the African American community of Greenwood, OK, near Tulsa. Race riots and tensions were very common after World War I, but what makes the Greenwood incident unique was the unheard-of organization of the mob and the completeness of the destruction (35 city blocks systematically burned and destroyed along with hundreds of casualties). Though it is arguably America's worst race riot, surprisingly little has been written about it in the mainstream press. For this work, Madigan relied on taped interviews of survivors and witnesses, newspaper accounts, scholarly papers and theses, and interviews with the descendants of survivors. What results is a highly readable account of the circumstances and history surrounding the event and its aftermath. Truly an eye-opening book, this is essential reading for anyone struggling to understand race relations in America. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Robert Flatley, Frostburg State Univ., MD Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In 1921 in Tulsa, Okla., hundreds of black residents of the prosperous Greenwood community were massacred by a mob of white townspeople. Madigan, a reporter with the Fort Worth Star Telegram, deftly locates the carnage in its proper political and cultural setting. Unlike previous accounts, this one shows how the riot touched individual lives by creating full-scale portraits of black and white citizens of oil-rich Tulsa. He fashions absorbing narratives from his interviews with survivors and from information uncovered by the 1997 Tulsa Race Riot Commission. Individual voices combine to relate the tragic chain of events, the madness and atmosphere of hate that compelled the white mob to torch almost every building in Greenwood. The earnest Sheriff McCullough worried about vigilantes running amok; the racist publisher Richard Lloyd Jones sought to sell newspapers by appealing to white bias; the defiant ex-slave Townsend Jackson refused to comply with Jim Crow laws; and the hapless Dick Rowland's arrest for accidentally bumping into a white girl triggers the slaughter. Madigan's skill at description, dialogue and pacing keeps the reader's interest at peak levels, and he does not gloss over brutal scenes of murder, arson and torture. Many other accounts have ignored the strong resistance of many Greenwood blacks against white marauders. Madigan draws implicit connections between one of the bloodiest racial atrocities in U.S. history and today's racial climate by concluding his timely history lesson with an update of the Tulsa commission findings and the city's move toward healing and reconciliation. 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A compelling account of the massacre at Greenwood recreates this horrific destruction of a prosperous African-American southern community near Tulsa, Oklahoma. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

An account of the massacre at Greenwood recreates this destruction of a prosperous African American southern community near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

On the morning of June 1, 1921, a white mob numbering in the thousands marched across the railroad tracks dividing black from white in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and obliterated a black community then celebrated as one of America's most prosperous. 34 square blocks of Tulsa's Greenwood community, known then as the Negro Wall Street of America, were reduced to smoldering rubble.And now, 80 years later, the death toll of what is known as the Tulsa Race Riot is more difficult to pinpoint. Conservative estimates put the number of dead at about 100 (75% of the victims are believed to have been black), but the actual number of casualties could be triple that. The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, formed two years ago to determine exactly what happened, has recommended that restitution to the historic Greenwood Community would be good public policy and do much to repair the emotional as well as physical scars of this most terrible incident in our shared past. With chilling details, humanity, and the narrative thrust of compelling fiction, The Burning will recreate the town of Greenwood at the height of its prosperity, explore the currents of hatred, racism, and mistrust between its black residents and neighboring Tulsa's white population, narrate events leading up to and including Greenwood's annihilation, and document the subsequent silence that surrounded the tragedy.