Published by HarperCollins on 5 October 2021
Genres: YA NonFiction
Format: ARC eBook
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A searing new work of nonfiction from award-winning author Brandy Colbert about the history and legacy of one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American history: the Tulsa Race Massacre.
In the early morning of June 1, 1921, a white mob marched across the train tracks in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and into its predominantly Black Greenwood District—a thriving, affluent neighborhood known as America’s Black Wall Street. They brought with them firearms, gasoline, and explosives. In a few short hours, they’d razed thirty-five square blocks to the ground, leaving hundreds dead. The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the most devastating acts of racial violence in US history. But how did it come to pass? What exactly happened? And why are the events unknown to so many of us today?
These are the questions that award-winning author Brandy Colbert seeks to answer in this unflinching nonfiction account of the Tulsa Race Massacre. In examining the tension that was brought to a boil by many factors—white resentment of Black economic and political advancement, the resurgence of white supremacist groups, the tone and perspective of the media, and more—a portrait is drawn of an event singular in its devastation, but not in its kind. It is part of a legacy of white violence that can be traced from our country’s earliest days through Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement in the mid–twentieth century, and the fight for justice and accountability Black Americans still face today.
The Tulsa Race Massacre has long failed to fit into the story Americans like to tell themselves about the history of their country. This book, ambitious and intimate in turn, explores the ways in which the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre is the story of America—and by showing us who we are, points to a way forward.
*I received a free e-Book ARC copy of this title via Edelweiss+ through my workplace as a Youth Services Librarian. All opinions are my own*
Brandy Colbert takes readers back in time to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 in her non-fiction title: Black Birds in the Sky. Through historical accounts, photographs, and a critical look at the media accounts as well as the modern-day narrative of this historical event, Colbert brings to light the events that took place prior to, during and after the Tulsa Race Massacre.
What I loved about this book was how Colbert created the context around the event. The narrative wasn’t just a timeline of events, but an all-around look at the environment that led to this event. She gave background on the economy, the political environment, the laws in place and those changing and the social climate in America (especially the South and Oklahoma) during the late 1800s and early 1900s. I really thought this context was key to telling the whole story behind the Tulsa Race Massacre and Colbert did a wonderful job of creating it.
Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the way Colbert brought the narrative of the survivors to life within the book. Using quotes from articles, diaries and other historical accounts, Colbert brought to life the stories of the residents of Tulsa. My favorite part of history is learning about history from those who actually lived it and hearing their stories. Having this aspect within Black Birds in the Sky was such a huge draw for me and I loved how Colbert incorporated these stories into the narrative of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Lastly, this book brings to life a history that was intentionally hidden – an event in history that I didn’t know about until last year. It allowed me to educate myself and learn about an event in history from the perspective of survivors and residents of Tulsa. I believe this book will just be the tip of my exploration into Black American history and exploring more about Tulsa and other events in American history. Just like I was able to experience and learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre, I think pre-teens, teens and other adults will be able to grasp this narrative and learn from Colbert’s work. I’d definitely recommend everyone pick this title up and read it, especially if you are ignorant of this historical event as I was. I think anyone who reads it will find value from it and hopefully it will inspire others, as it inspired me, to dig deeper and reach for more books around this topic and related topics. Grab your copy today!
Let me know your thoughts if you’ve read this one or plan on reading it. Also, feel free to drop other recommendations for further reading on this topic or related topics below 🙂