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

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And then they were gone. More than one thousand homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors' offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air. Over the course of less than twenty-four hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa's infamous "Black Wall Street" was wiped off the map--and erased from t And then they were gone. More than one thousand homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors' offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air. Over the course of less than twenty-four hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa's infamous "Black Wall Street" was wiped off the map--and erased from the history books. Official records were disappeared, researchers were threatened, and the worst single incident of racial violence in American history was kept hidden for more than fifty years. But there were some secrets that would not die. A riveting and essential new book, The Ground Breaking not only tells the long-suppressed story of the notorious Tulsa Race Massacre. It also unearths the lost history of how the massacre was covered up, and of the courageous individuals who fought to keep the story alive. Most importantly, it recounts the ongoing archaeological saga and the search for the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre, and of the fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families. Both a forgotten chronicle from the nation's past, and a story ripped from today's headlines, The Ground Breaking is a page-turning reflection on how we, as Americans, must wrestle with the parts of our history that have been buried for far too long.


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And then they were gone. More than one thousand homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors' offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air. Over the course of less than twenty-four hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa's infamous "Black Wall Street" was wiped off the map--and erased from t And then they were gone. More than one thousand homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors' offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air. Over the course of less than twenty-four hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa's infamous "Black Wall Street" was wiped off the map--and erased from the history books. Official records were disappeared, researchers were threatened, and the worst single incident of racial violence in American history was kept hidden for more than fifty years. But there were some secrets that would not die. A riveting and essential new book, The Ground Breaking not only tells the long-suppressed story of the notorious Tulsa Race Massacre. It also unearths the lost history of how the massacre was covered up, and of the courageous individuals who fought to keep the story alive. Most importantly, it recounts the ongoing archaeological saga and the search for the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre, and of the fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families. Both a forgotten chronicle from the nation's past, and a story ripped from today's headlines, The Ground Breaking is a page-turning reflection on how we, as Americans, must wrestle with the parts of our history that have been buried for far too long.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    L.A. Starks

    This is a superb historian's account of the 1921 Tulsa massacre and--at particular length--the efforts to find the bodies of the victims. Readers will admire Ellsworth's perseverance--he has been attempting to uncover the historical truth for more than 40 years, undaunted by the absence/disappearance of much of the written records of the event. Time after time, he describes the extensive oral interviews with survivors and families--many of which grew into friendships--as well as the roadblocks, t This is a superb historian's account of the 1921 Tulsa massacre and--at particular length--the efforts to find the bodies of the victims. Readers will admire Ellsworth's perseverance--he has been attempting to uncover the historical truth for more than 40 years, undaunted by the absence/disappearance of much of the written records of the event. Time after time, he describes the extensive oral interviews with survivors and families--many of which grew into friendships--as well as the roadblocks, the slow accumulation of evidence. Moreover, he accomplishes something that is challenging for a historical record--making it suspenseful. Will this person open up? Is that person's memory accurate? Readers will appreciate that this book is not about Scott Ellsworth. Instead, Ellsworth describes the important roles of everyone with whom he speaks and works, and what so many have done to find the truth after a half-century of coverup. Highly, highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    One hundred years ago a young black man got onto a Tulsa elevator. Something caused the female operator to scream. The man ran away. It was assumed that he had harassed the woman and was arrested. Just the previous year, a lynch mob had hung a white prisoner. Now, they gathered to deal out that same justice. Armed WWI veterans from the black community came to protect the jail. With passions high, fights broke out, and twenty-four hours later, the entire black community of Greenwood had been destr One hundred years ago a young black man got onto a Tulsa elevator. Something caused the female operator to scream. The man ran away. It was assumed that he had harassed the woman and was arrested. Just the previous year, a lynch mob had hung a white prisoner. Now, they gathered to deal out that same justice. Armed WWI veterans from the black community came to protect the jail. With passions high, fights broke out, and twenty-four hours later, the entire black community of Greenwood had been destroyed and unknown numbers murdered. Scott Ellsworth was a Tulsa native who was shocked when he learned this history. The story had been repressed; there were missing police reports and archival newspapers edited by scissors. Ellsworth has spent his lifetime studying and researching the Tulsa Race Massacre, his dissertation becoming the definitive history Death in a Promised Land. The Ground Breaking takes readers into the aftermath of the massacre, how the Greenwood community rebuilt, the repression of memory that amounted to denial, the search for the victims buried in unmarked graves, and the quest for reparations. The deep impact of the incident is evident in the stories told by the survivors Ellsworth interviews. For a hundred years, the controlling interests of the city have pushed to let the past be the past, while the activists who sought to unearth the incident were vilified. I felt the suspense build as the project strove to investigate the probable and rumored locations of mass graves. This is more than a history of a moment in time. It is the story of a thriving community that was destroyed and how it remade itself and was destroyed again. It is the story of the people who persisted in resurrecting a repressed history that continues to haunt the families of victims. We may try to bury the past because it looks bad, but we can not negate the legacy that haunts the families of the survivors. This is more than the story of a city and a moment in time. It is the story of those who persisted in resurrecting the truth, and it is the story of America’s deep rooted denial and its cost. We may try to bury the past, but its legacy still haunts us. I received a free book from the publisher through Goodreads giveaways. My review is fair and unbiased.

  3. 5 out of 5

    M

    A breathtaking account of one of the most horrific and undercovered massacres in history. This book was meticulously reported and very moving. An example of the power of narrative nonfiction at its best: you feel like you’re riding along with the narrator, the author, for the journey. I was pretty spellbound at the level of detail that the author was able to re-create. It’s insane how much our nation has tried to cover this up, even so far as to tear up public records of it. Thankful for journal A breathtaking account of one of the most horrific and undercovered massacres in history. This book was meticulously reported and very moving. An example of the power of narrative nonfiction at its best: you feel like you’re riding along with the narrator, the author, for the journey. I was pretty spellbound at the level of detail that the author was able to re-create. It’s insane how much our nation has tried to cover this up, even so far as to tear up public records of it. Thankful for journalism like this that holds public memory with such love and care.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shelby

    On this 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Ellsworth's history focuses not necessarily on the massacre itself, but on the unmarked mass graves where victims lie an entire century later. In that vein, I'd recommend this book to history nerds and readers who enjoy learning about archival processes, archaeology/excavation, and the documentation/preservation of historical artifacts and records. I was really looking forward to this book, but the audiobook didn't quite do it for me. RIYL Isa On this 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Ellsworth's history focuses not necessarily on the massacre itself, but on the unmarked mass graves where victims lie an entire century later. In that vein, I'd recommend this book to history nerds and readers who enjoy learning about archival processes, archaeology/excavation, and the documentation/preservation of historical artifacts and records. I was really looking forward to this book, but the audiobook didn't quite do it for me. RIYL Isabel Wilkerson.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Strong

    This is a book about secrets, and public history, and how the two mesh. Scott Ellsworth tells the tale of what happened after the Tulsa massacre. Yes, that's what it's called now -- grappling with the truth of it has changed the original terminology -- race riot -- to something more closely approximating what happened in Greenwood, sometimes known as Black Wall Street, on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Ellsworth deals with the horrific events of those days in about 20 pages. He paints with broad strokes This is a book about secrets, and public history, and how the two mesh. Scott Ellsworth tells the tale of what happened after the Tulsa massacre. Yes, that's what it's called now -- grappling with the truth of it has changed the original terminology -- race riot -- to something more closely approximating what happened in Greenwood, sometimes known as Black Wall Street, on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Ellsworth deals with the horrific events of those days in about 20 pages. He paints with broad strokes the outlines of the action, the who/what/where, mostly, without going into very much finer detail of the personal losses of residents and business owners. The book kicks into gear in covering the aftermath of the horrors, beginning with the "loss" of records of National Guard and police activities in the massacre, continuing with the literal ripping out of newspaper stories before the pages could be microfilmed by the WPA during the Depression, and finally telling the tale of how Ellsworth helped survivors and relatives find the remains of murdered family members in unmarked graves. The recounting of these processes is intensely interesting, and the people whom Ellsworth introduces are engaging, but the importance of this book at this time is what I can't stop thinking about. Now, when the US is divided (like we needed another excuse for division) over how to handle the nation's past, is exactly the time when people who don't think we should discuss the reality of race relations in the country because it might hurt little Bobby or Susie's fee-fees desperately need to read this. And not just because of the account of the Greenwood massacre and its deliberate cover-up by whites (who, incidentally, were never held to account by the criminal justice system in any way whatsoever), but because of the back stories of so many of the Black people whose families were living in and around Greenwood when it was destroyed -- "my father was killed by night riders so we moved out of Alabama to Oklahoma," "my dad was a police officer and was set up by the Klan," just for a couple of examples. PEOPLE WERE ALREADY FLEEING MURDER AND INJUSTICE. And they probably thought they'd found a home, if not a haven, only to see that there was no place in the country where Black people could be successful and happy without being targeted by white people who believed down to their very bones that Black folks didn't deserve that. So much for respectability politics -- sure, make the money, live the respectable churchgoing life, own the business, buy the home, acquire the trappings of a middle-class life. None of it matters when the Master Race decides to gun up and put you in your place. Which may just be a mass grave. Anyhow, this was a much-needed look at what might be possible, when a large and influential enough group of people decides that it's time to do the right thing (or at least part of the right thing, because restitution and reparations for all that was lost are still a thorny subject for the I-wasn't-even-born-yet crowd). It's an in-depth look at how historians operate and at how history is written -- or re-written. And I should probably add that, if you're more worried about Bobby and Susie's tears than you are about the truth, keep that to yourself, because I'm not interested in the opinions of people who are part of the problem.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    Historian James Ellsworth brings us the story of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which he describes in vivid detail. He tells the story of how thousands of people were killed. In this book, Ellsworth details the events leading up to the riots, including the discovery of mass graves believed to contain victims, and he debunks rumors that a Black teenager was the intended target of the violence. On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a shoe shiner at a white-owned business, was heading to a designated “colo Historian James Ellsworth brings us the story of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, which he describes in vivid detail. He tells the story of how thousands of people were killed. In this book, Ellsworth details the events leading up to the riots, including the discovery of mass graves believed to contain victims, and he debunks rumors that a Black teenager was the intended target of the violence. On May 30, 1921, Dick Rowland, a shoe shiner at a white-owned business, was heading to a designated “colored” restroom at the Drexel Building; minutes after he left, Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator there, screamed. The reason was never determined, Dick was blamed, Sarah declined to press charges, and the matter seemed to be settled, but it wasn’t. The Groundbreaking is a true-life thriller, both of which combine to make this book feel like a true crime story. It’s also filled with fascinating anecdotes about how individuals helped and tried to stop Scott Ellsworth. Thank you, Dutton Books, for the gifted copy.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jo Stafford

    Pretending that horrific events never took place helps no one. Distorting the historical record to the point of destroying evidence of atrocities protects the perpetrators and denies justice to the victims and their descendants. Scott Ellsworth’s masterful book is an exercise in truth-telling. Focusing on the cover-up of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre and the search for mass gravesites, he details impressive detective work undertaken by journalists, historians, forensic anthropologists, and Africa Pretending that horrific events never took place helps no one. Distorting the historical record to the point of destroying evidence of atrocities protects the perpetrators and denies justice to the victims and their descendants. Scott Ellsworth’s masterful book is an exercise in truth-telling. Focusing on the cover-up of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre and the search for mass gravesites, he details impressive detective work undertaken by journalists, historians, forensic anthropologists, and African American community leaders. Written with empathy for Tulsa’s Black community and with a determination to expose the truth of what happened to Black Wall Street, The Ground Breaking is essential reading for anyone interested in an honest reckoning with the past. As Ellsworth writes, history “is a mirror of both who we are and who we want to be”.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    I am so torn on how to rate this one. I wish there had been more focus on the massacre itself and telling the stories of the survivors and their loved ones who didn’t make it. But the book was just as much about the author’s experiences related to the massacre and what he was doing in writing it and bringing this historic and horrible event to life. It was also super fucking annoying that he started a bazillion sentences with “For…” Literally could’ve left that word out and the sentence would hav I am so torn on how to rate this one. I wish there had been more focus on the massacre itself and telling the stories of the survivors and their loved ones who didn’t make it. But the book was just as much about the author’s experiences related to the massacre and what he was doing in writing it and bringing this historic and horrible event to life. It was also super fucking annoying that he started a bazillion sentences with “For…” Literally could’ve left that word out and the sentence would have still made sense.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    Ellsworth, author of Death in a Promised Land (1982), the first c0mplete history about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, revisits the subject in this mix of history and memoir. In a compelling narrative, Ellsworth recounts how survivors, researchers, and historians following the publication of his seminal book on the massacre served as essential catalysts in breaking long held silences around this American tragedy and move toward truth, reconciliation, and atonement.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    One of the best books I have read in 2021. The Ground Breaking synthesizes accounts of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 through extensive research and interviews and leads up to the search and discovery of a mass grave related to the tragedy. It illustrates the crucial role historians and archeologists can play in uncovering past atrocities.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Taillie

    Timely topic at 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. Up-to-date account published in 2021. Can't imagine a more well-informed individual on the topic than the author. Very well written with my only complaint being that it is sometimes difficult to follow the chronology. Excellent read on a topic we should all be more familiar with! Thank you Mr. Ellsworth! Timely topic at 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. Up-to-date account published in 2021. Can't imagine a more well-informed individual on the topic than the author. Very well written with my only complaint being that it is sometimes difficult to follow the chronology. Excellent read on a topic we should all be more familiar with! Thank you Mr. Ellsworth!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shari Suarez

    Until last year I had never heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It wasn't covered in any of my history classes. After learning about it, I wanted to know more. This book talks briefly about the massacre and what may have caused it but it's mostly about the search for mass graves of the victims. I found this book extremely haunting and disturbing but I know how necessary learning about this is. Until last year I had never heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It wasn't covered in any of my history classes. After learning about it, I wanted to know more. This book talks briefly about the massacre and what may have caused it but it's mostly about the search for mass graves of the victims. I found this book extremely haunting and disturbing but I know how necessary learning about this is.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Koen

    Excellent telling on the Tulsa Race Massacre. The book doesn't focus as much on the massacre itself as it does on how it was dealt with afterwards. And that's an unbelievable story. In recent years the massacre finally gained (some of) the recognition it deserves and the author was at the forefront of the quest to get this shameful episode out of the shadows. Well told, well researched, recommended Excellent telling on the Tulsa Race Massacre. The book doesn't focus as much on the massacre itself as it does on how it was dealt with afterwards. And that's an unbelievable story. In recent years the massacre finally gained (some of) the recognition it deserves and the author was at the forefront of the quest to get this shameful episode out of the shadows. Well told, well researched, recommended

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Burris

    A good from 1921 to now recounting of the massacre story and the ongoing efforts to find the graves from someone integral to bringing it all back to light.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Phil Lawless

    This book is a magnificent updating of Ellsworth's investigations about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre published on the 100th anniversary of the event. It goes well beyond detailing the original content of his first book, Death in A Promised Land. Ellsworth is a historian and he displays here how historians operate in paying attention to details, using a multitude of sources, making guesses, and doing an immense amount of work. While I was reading this book after seeing the racism displayed at the U This book is a magnificent updating of Ellsworth's investigations about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre published on the 100th anniversary of the event. It goes well beyond detailing the original content of his first book, Death in A Promised Land. Ellsworth is a historian and he displays here how historians operate in paying attention to details, using a multitude of sources, making guesses, and doing an immense amount of work. While I was reading this book after seeing the racism displayed at the U. S. Capitol on 1/6/2021, the white Tulsans were revealed to have such similar feelings about African-Americans. The violence of the massacre is presented much more clearly than before.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I knew that the Tulsa Massacre had happened, but I didn't know much about the details. Of course, "Watchmen" piqued my interest. So the first part of this book, describing the events in detail, was a real eye-opener. To learn of efforts by government officials and residents to cover it up, not talk about it and fight efforts to bring any part of it to light has been very discouraging. I'm glad that some people, including this author, have been so persistent for so many years. I kind of wish Ells I knew that the Tulsa Massacre had happened, but I didn't know much about the details. Of course, "Watchmen" piqued my interest. So the first part of this book, describing the events in detail, was a real eye-opener. To learn of efforts by government officials and residents to cover it up, not talk about it and fight efforts to bring any part of it to light has been very discouraging. I'm glad that some people, including this author, have been so persistent for so many years. I kind of wish Ellsworth had waited one more year to write this, though, because where his story ends seems like it could be the verge of a real breakthrough in finding the bodies.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jillian Doherty

    The available sample chapters deftly, and fully illustrate the power punch Ellsworth offers here! Crucially important history, delivered in a narrative tone allowing you to vividly imagine it all in technicolor. I felt like I held my breath for the 20 some pages that detailed Greenswood's horrific, and buried history. Its powerful account duly offers a modern view to how, what, and why we should learn from it all, by reflecting on now versus then with transparent understanding. Dr. Scott Ellswort The available sample chapters deftly, and fully illustrate the power punch Ellsworth offers here! Crucially important history, delivered in a narrative tone allowing you to vividly imagine it all in technicolor. I felt like I held my breath for the 20 some pages that detailed Greenswood's horrific, and buried history. Its powerful account duly offers a modern view to how, what, and why we should learn from it all, by reflecting on now versus then with transparent understanding. Dr. Scott Ellsworth is a Tulsa local, returning to record the full story of the mass graves being unearthed, by request of the Mayor. I was enveloped from the start; aware of what I was about to read, I couldn't look away as it's as harrowing as it is empowering. Reading of the massacre, then following the timeline after to learn how others like Nancy and Robert Feldman, Don Ross, and Ed Wheeler have embarked to pierce the veil of silence. They all share why now more than ever it's vital we learn, listen, and bring about change for the suppressed. I cannot wait to read more as it comes to light! Partial galley borrowed from the publisher.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom Allen

    Who are we? What kind of people are we? A little more than 400 years ago enslaved Africans were brought to the North American continent and the islands of the Caribbean by Europeans who invaded this continent for god and country. But mostly to rob the wealth from this new found, but already occupied, land. Now 400 years later local and state governing bodies are passing laws that forbid the teaching of this history. Who are we to deny this land was forcibly stolen from the indigenous people who’ Who are we? What kind of people are we? A little more than 400 years ago enslaved Africans were brought to the North American continent and the islands of the Caribbean by Europeans who invaded this continent for god and country. But mostly to rob the wealth from this new found, but already occupied, land. Now 400 years later local and state governing bodies are passing laws that forbid the teaching of this history. Who are we to deny this land was forcibly stolen from the indigenous people who’s ancestors had lived here for thousands of years before these foreign invaders set foot on this continent? Who are we to deny that the United States of America was built on the back of enslaved people. The very house where the leader of this country resides was built by enslaved people. What kind of cowardly people can deny the acts of their forebears while they continue to treat surviving indigenous people and the descendants of enslaved people as if they have no legitimate place in the American society. Who are we? Read this book and get a glimpse of our shameful not so distant past. Can white Americans really become not those people?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Westlake

    This is a great, important read that does a good job looking at the long stretch of history. Many might know about the history but haven't had the chance to look at the impact of the events in Tulsa. It's a good example of how history can be applied to understand the social scene of the current day. One hundred years have passed, but the story continues on. Ellsworth doesn't just look at how it affects descendants, but how it affects the city and the ongoing efforts to remember it. This is a great, important read that does a good job looking at the long stretch of history. Many might know about the history but haven't had the chance to look at the impact of the events in Tulsa. It's a good example of how history can be applied to understand the social scene of the current day. One hundred years have passed, but the story continues on. Ellsworth doesn't just look at how it affects descendants, but how it affects the city and the ongoing efforts to remember it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Seigler

    Last year, Tulsa was put on the map by two things: the premiere of HBO's "Watchmen" series and the decision by the Trump campaign to hold a rally in the city of Tulsa on Juneteenth (the unofficial holiday marking the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, in 1865). Tulsa had been the site of a brutal, bloody massacre in 1921, almost a hundred years prior, and "Watchmen" helped spread the word about the long-buried event while the Trump rally was rightly seen as a racist do Last year, Tulsa was put on the map by two things: the premiere of HBO's "Watchmen" series and the decision by the Trump campaign to hold a rally in the city of Tulsa on Juneteenth (the unofficial holiday marking the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas, in 1865). Tulsa had been the site of a brutal, bloody massacre in 1921, almost a hundred years prior, and "Watchmen" helped spread the word about the long-buried event while the Trump rally was rightly seen as a racist dog-whistle to his fervent white nationalist base. Now, a century after the massacre, comes this book as not only a look at the events of 1921, but the events ever since, including how the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma kept the Tulsa Race Riot/Massacre of 1921 out of the collective memory of the city, the state, and the nation. "The Ground Breaking" by Scott Ellsworth serves not just as an overview of the incident itself in 1921, when white rioters tore through the affluent and largely self-sufficient Greenwood section of Tulsa ("Black Wall Street") but also at the subsequent century of lies, obfuscation, and denial perpetuated by those in Tulsa who had very good reasons to cover up the crime committed over the Memorial Day weekend that year. Ellsworth, a local Tulsa native who went on to write one of the first major scholarly accounts of the massacre in 1982, mixes his own personal history of uncovering the massacre and its survivors with accounts of those who lived through the event but also those who became gradually aware of the crime over the years and who strove to bring Tulsa to account for it (a process that is still ongoing, as the current debate of reparations nationwide is also being argued on a local level in Tulsa, as a way to honor the families of those who died and those who survived the massacre, many of whom are no longer with us). Ellsworth also highlights the efforts to uncover mass graves of the uncounted victims, for there is literally no agreed-upon death toll for the massacre and no agreement over where the bodies would be at (many locations are suggested, and forensic scientists are currently hard at work trying to uncover any remains from that event). All in all, he argues that the efforts to honor the dead are essential, a service that Tulsa (and the nation at large) owes to the victims of what may very well be the worst racial massacre on American soil in our long, inglorious history of racial unrest and violence. This is a powerful, illuminating, and infuriating book. The story of the Tulsa Massacre needs to be told over and over, and the city of Tulsa needs to have accountability for what happened so long ago (and for events that occurred more recently, like the murder of Terence Crutcher only a few years ago). But the nation at large should also have to account for its history of racial violence perpetuated against non-white minorities, and part of that accounting means uncovering the truth of events both far off (seemingly, anyway) and in events fresh in the national memory. The murder of George Floyd helped galvanize a nation in the grips of a worldwide pandemic and arguably helped topple a racist administration more interested in photo-ops of toughness than in actual racial justice. But the process is still ongoing, and as "The Ground Breaking" reminds us, there is no statute of limitations on responsibility and accountability.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I began this book almost 100 years after the events that took place in the neighborhood of Greenwood, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A neighborhood that was self sufficient. A neighborhood so rich in its self sufficiency, that many had more that the usual folks in Tulsa. This African American neighborhood had it's own markets, dry cleaners, medical offices, attorneys, ice cream shops & drugstores. A world unto itself. Just as we often read in the history of this nation, all of that was burned to the ground. Bu I began this book almost 100 years after the events that took place in the neighborhood of Greenwood, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A neighborhood that was self sufficient. A neighborhood so rich in its self sufficiency, that many had more that the usual folks in Tulsa. This African American neighborhood had it's own markets, dry cleaners, medical offices, attorneys, ice cream shops & drugstores. A world unto itself. Just as we often read in the history of this nation, all of that was burned to the ground. Burned to the ground by an angry white mob. Based on a rumor, fueled by the jealousy that could not be contained. Fueled by the racism that is always there. How can these residents have so much & others still want? How dare they? The answer is simple they worked HARD for all that they had built. The details in this tome are hard to swallow & one wonders how could so many live with themselves after the pain they wrought? But I ask that rhetorically. They live with themselves & their own self-righteous hate & seething bigotry. And so you know the rest of this story. It is a hard read, but Scott Ellsworth does not give up. He finds detail after detail & finds those few survivors who can direct him to more & more information. This was my lunch read & I could not wait each day for 1:00 PM, I could not put it down. He is determined to find those who were murdered & locate where they were buried. Along the way, we learn so much about what happened 100 years ago, that but for his doggedness perhaps we would never have known. This is a hard read but it is worth every bit of uncomfortableness, because in 2021, each of us has a responsibility to ensure that the truth is revealed & that we take care to never allow this type of a horror to happen again. Read this Book!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I liked the book although I am saddened by the story that it had to tell - the Tulsa massacre of 1921. The author takes the position, with some justification, that somehow the city of Tulsa set out to cover up this horrific episode in the city's history. As I wound toward the end I was reminded that all of American had come very close to eradicating the Spanish flu pandemic when COVID-19 came calling. People really don't want to have bad/horrible/awful events residing in recent memory when there I liked the book although I am saddened by the story that it had to tell - the Tulsa massacre of 1921. The author takes the position, with some justification, that somehow the city of Tulsa set out to cover up this horrific episode in the city's history. As I wound toward the end I was reminded that all of American had come very close to eradicating the Spanish flu pandemic when COVID-19 came calling. People really don't want to have bad/horrible/awful events residing in recent memory when there are edifying things in God's creation to take their place. There are newspapers from the time that reported on the events, and Ellsworth's entire story revolves around a community and its attempt to honor the victims of that event by finding their graves - that their graves were somehow hidden in the first place probably deserves this book, but Ellsworth does find out, I think, how hard it is for history to be made. I think he has missed the boat in reporting on whether the community will be able to resolve the history. He reports on contentious meetings but really never develops the motivations of people who are contending. Is the real motive reparations? Is it reconciliation? Is it all really a huge blame game with no end?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gerry

    4-1/2 stars. The Ground Breaking opens with a description of the events in Tulsa in early June, 1921. Once known as the Tulsa Race Riot, the event is now more accurately called the Tulsa Massacre. Scott Ellsworth began researching the massacre as a Reed College junior in need of a topic for his senior thesis. That thesis, and follow up research during graduate school, formed the basis of his 1982 book, Death in a Promised Land, the first comprehensive account of the Tulsa Massacre. His new book 4-1/2 stars. The Ground Breaking opens with a description of the events in Tulsa in early June, 1921. Once known as the Tulsa Race Riot, the event is now more accurately called the Tulsa Massacre. Scott Ellsworth began researching the massacre as a Reed College junior in need of a topic for his senior thesis. That thesis, and follow up research during graduate school, formed the basis of his 1982 book, Death in a Promised Land, the first comprehensive account of the Tulsa Massacre. His new book focuses on the aftermath of the massacre, on the decades-long efforts by both whites and blacks, each for their own reasons, to deny or ignore the painful reality of the massacre, and finally, on the still unfinished effort to uncover both the facts and the relics of the massacre -- actual artifacts and human remains -- and to come to terms with this painful part of our history. Well-written and very informative, The Ground Breaking is more than an historical account. It's a challenge to all of us to face and reconcile with America's history of racism and oppression, and to begin to repair and make amends for the damage that history has caused for too long and for too many generations.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andres Eguiguren

    Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, this book can best be summarized with two excerpts from the epilogue: 1. "Never before has knowledge about the history of the massacre been so readily available. Reckoning with that history, however, is a different matter." (p.275) 2. "For fifty years, the story of the massacre had been suppressed. Then, for fifty more, that story was brought to light. In the next fifty, we will learn what it means." (p.276) Only the first chapt Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, this book can best be summarized with two excerpts from the epilogue: 1. "Never before has knowledge about the history of the massacre been so readily available. Reckoning with that history, however, is a different matter." (p.275) 2. "For fifty years, the story of the massacre had been suppressed. Then, for fifty more, that story was brought to light. In the next fifty, we will learn what it means." (p.276) Only the first chapter, "1921," recounts the events of May 31st and June 1st, 1921, in twenty-seven short pages. The rest of the book (about 90% of the main text) deals with the subsequent one hundred years. I wanted to read more about the massacre and what led up to it, so this was not the book that I was hoping for. However, that's not the author's fault. It is well-researched and told by a Tulsa native, a historian who has previously written about the events of 1921 and was deeply involved with a commission that was set up in the 1990s to study and report on what had previously been called a race riot, as well as two searches for the graves of those murdered, most recently in 2020.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alex Lowe

    Yesterday marked the 100 year anniversary of one of the most gruesome and unthinkable tragedies that happened in our nation... an event that I never heard of or learned about in school until I began my APUSH teaching career. I wanted to learn more about the Tulsa race massacre and decided to read this book by Scott Ellsworth, who published his first book on Tulsa in the early 80s which was the first of its kind about the massacre. I highly recommend this book, as Ellsworth gives the reality of t Yesterday marked the 100 year anniversary of one of the most gruesome and unthinkable tragedies that happened in our nation... an event that I never heard of or learned about in school until I began my APUSH teaching career. I wanted to learn more about the Tulsa race massacre and decided to read this book by Scott Ellsworth, who published his first book on Tulsa in the early 80s which was the first of its kind about the massacre. I highly recommend this book, as Ellsworth gives the reality of the massacre, but also goes through his methodical research to uncover something that was so expertly covered up for so long. The book covers the search for mass gravesites for those murdered during the massacre in 1921. He covers the push for justice all the way into the Covid pandemic of last year. Fascinatingly written and a book that I had a difficult time putting down. Please read this one. If you have any interest in learning more about what happened in Greenwood and Black Wall Street in early June 1st 2021, you really must read this brand new book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ann Long

    This book was recently released and covers much of the last hundred years in regards to the Tulsa Race Massacre. I finished this book a week or so ago, and learned much about the event and subsequent impact. In learning more about the massacre, I would not necessarily recommend this book as a staring place. I found that there were many details of peripheral players and lack of focus (at least for what I was hoping for) on the Race Massacre itself within these pages. I found myself constantly wis This book was recently released and covers much of the last hundred years in regards to the Tulsa Race Massacre. I finished this book a week or so ago, and learned much about the event and subsequent impact. In learning more about the massacre, I would not necessarily recommend this book as a staring place. I found that there were many details of peripheral players and lack of focus (at least for what I was hoping for) on the Race Massacre itself within these pages. I found myself constantly wishing the author would write more about the actual event and less on his own experience writing this book. Disjointed and scattered, I had a hard time finishing the book, but felt the Race Massacre deserved the attention and I was curious enough to continue, even though it was communicated in a sub par form. Despite this book not fulfilling what I was looking for, I highly highly recommend looking into this devastating part of history so that it may live and be known in the light of acknowledgement.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Homerun2

    This is a fascinating, well-written and profoundly sad story. Anyone who is paying attention now knows of the Tulsa Race Massacre that occurred in 1921 and was erased from most local memory and document trails for decades. The thriving Greenwood black section of Tulsa, with scores of businesses and professionals, was burned and bombed to the ground and (possibly) hundreds of black citizens were murdered by their white neighbors. Not all historians write well, but Ellsworth does, and evokes the mo This is a fascinating, well-written and profoundly sad story. Anyone who is paying attention now knows of the Tulsa Race Massacre that occurred in 1921 and was erased from most local memory and document trails for decades. The thriving Greenwood black section of Tulsa, with scores of businesses and professionals, was burned and bombed to the ground and (possibly) hundreds of black citizens were murdered by their white neighbors. Not all historians write well, but Ellsworth does, and evokes the mood and the nuances of the times. But this isn't simply the story of the event itself -- he did that years earlier in another book. This story continues past then and talks about the aftermath, focusing strongly on the search for the mass graves. It's a compelling detective story. Given the almost total deliberate lack of written records, researchers searched out anecdotal and eyewitness accounts -- and the clock was ticking since most survivors had already died. It includes the political and social machinations in Tulsa and the long trail that led to new discoveries. Highly recommended. Thanks to Net Galley and to the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Donna Frasor

    On the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot, this event is now in the public eye. If you want to learn more about this Tulsa Race Riot (Massacre) of 1921, read Death in a Promised Land by this author. In this current book Ellsworth recaps the story but goes to greater lengths to explore the aftermath of the massacre, the denial, misplaced and lost records, the search for unmarked graves, and reparation. What began as a college thesis project has turned into a historical memoir of how this ev On the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot, this event is now in the public eye. If you want to learn more about this Tulsa Race Riot (Massacre) of 1921, read Death in a Promised Land by this author. In this current book Ellsworth recaps the story but goes to greater lengths to explore the aftermath of the massacre, the denial, misplaced and lost records, the search for unmarked graves, and reparation. What began as a college thesis project has turned into a historical memoir of how this event affects the city of Tulsa and the efforts made to remember it. 5 stars for the amount of work Ellsworth did to research this topic by interviewing subjects, serving on a commission, and pursuing many many leads. Excellent, well written book on a subject we should all be more familiar with. “For fifty years, the story of the massacre had been suppressed. Then, for fifty more, that story was brought to life. In the next fifty, we will learn what it means.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark Chimel

    I had previously read The Burning by Tim Madigan and watched several specials on the Tulsa Race Massacre for the 100th anniversary this year, but this is definitely a topic that has been so under discussed until recently that I feel like we can't get enough. This book goes into a lot of detail of what happened and what's happened since, as well as covering several more recent events as the Tulsa Race Massacre has become more well know. It was interesting to hear how much played out in real-time I had previously read The Burning by Tim Madigan and watched several specials on the Tulsa Race Massacre for the 100th anniversary this year, but this is definitely a topic that has been so under discussed until recently that I feel like we can't get enough. This book goes into a lot of detail of what happened and what's happened since, as well as covering several more recent events as the Tulsa Race Massacre has become more well know. It was interesting to hear how much played out in real-time as Ellsworth was working on this project. I appreciate this book and other efforts documented in this book to help shed more light on the race massacre and how we can not only acknowledge this event but also finally try to reconcile, and I would definitely recommend this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Scott Ellsworth’s The Ground Breaking is a very accessible overview of the Tulsa Race Massacre, including Ellsworth’s research in the Greenwood community since the 1970s, the fight for reconciliation and reparations for the Black survivors and family members, and the more recent archaeological search for bodies of the victims. As someone who never heard of this tragic event until a few years ago, I really appreciated learning about the context as well as the present-day efforts to ensure no one Scott Ellsworth’s The Ground Breaking is a very accessible overview of the Tulsa Race Massacre, including Ellsworth’s research in the Greenwood community since the 1970s, the fight for reconciliation and reparations for the Black survivors and family members, and the more recent archaeological search for bodies of the victims. As someone who never heard of this tragic event until a few years ago, I really appreciated learning about the context as well as the present-day efforts to ensure no one in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, or in the US more broadly forget about the massacre. Be warned, this is an unfinished story (meaning the investigations still are ongoing) so not everything gets wrapped up neatly at the end. Highly recommend.

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