Unspeakable The Tulsa Race Massacre

unspeakable carole boston weatherford

2022 Caldecott Honor      2022 Coretta Scott King Author Award                  2022 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

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.---from the publisher

32 pages                       978-1541581203                       Ages 8-12

Keywords:  massacre, Black Lives Matter, Diversity: Oppression and Racism, American history, African Americans, African American author, racial violence, 20th century, prejudice, racism, 8 year old, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, informational picture book, narrative nonfiction, diversity, diverse books, Social Studies Curriculum, Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Award, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award


“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.

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

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