cover image The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice

The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice

Scott Ellsworth. Dutton, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-18298-7

Historian Ellsworth (Death in a Promised Land) delivers a riveting investigation into the origins and aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. A native Tulsan, Ellsworth served on the 1997 commission that recommended reparations for the survivors of the massacre and their descendants. He recreates the attack on Greenwood, the city's thriving African American district, in meticulous and harrowing detail, describing how white rioters marched through the neighborhood shooting residents and looting stores while planes dropped incendiary bombs from overhead. Ellsworth also delves into modern-day efforts to locate the mass graves where victims are believed to have been buried; debunks rumors that the riot was planned (its spark, he contends, were accusations that a Black teenager had sexually assaulted a white girl); and notes the removal of photographs and newspaper articles from historical archives, and other efforts by Tulsa's white establishment to obscure the deaths of as many as 300 Black people and the displacement of 10,000 others. Interviews with survivors and reflections on the debate over reparations and the social, economic, and racial divisions of modern-day Tulsa add depth to Ellsworth's portrait of a community attempting to heal from an unimaginable injustice. This eloquent, deeply moving history isn't to be missed. Agent: David Larabell, CAA. (June)