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Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

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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 thriv 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.


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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 thriv 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.

30 review for Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Essential YA nonfiction. Colbert crafts and immersive and painful reality of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, weaving together the history of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Black history, and how what happened on June 1 echoes through today's world. Why was this incident hidden and "forgotten" for so long? Essential YA nonfiction. Colbert crafts and immersive and painful reality of the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, weaving together the history of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Black history, and how what happened on June 1 echoes through today's world. Why was this incident hidden and "forgotten" for so long?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    I actually don’t wanna say much about this book except it’s an important part of history that needs to be remembered, so do give this book a try if you wanna know more about the community of Greenwood, Oklahoma, Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre. It’s a well researched and emotionally evocative book and I’m glad to have read it. And I would definitely take from it what the author emphasizes - history matters, stories matter, and it also matters who is telling these stories; also keep I actually don’t wanna say much about this book except it’s an important part of history that needs to be remembered, so do give this book a try if you wanna know more about the community of Greenwood, Oklahoma, Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre. It’s a well researched and emotionally evocative book and I’m glad to have read it. And I would definitely take from it what the author emphasizes - history matters, stories matter, and it also matters who is telling these stories; also keep asking questions, never stop seeking the truth or sharing it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Giveaway Win!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I so wish that this book could be in the hands of readers in time for this weekend’s centennial remembrance of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Colbert’s meticulous research and engaging voice shine a much-needed light on a horrific event in US history that has been kept in the shadows for way too long. Her afterword makes a compelling case for why it is so essential that we understand our history if we want to move forward as a nation. Black Birds in the Sky will be released in October and should be in I so wish that this book could be in the hands of readers in time for this weekend’s centennial remembrance of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Colbert’s meticulous research and engaging voice shine a much-needed light on a horrific event in US history that has been kept in the shadows for way too long. Her afterword makes a compelling case for why it is so essential that we understand our history if we want to move forward as a nation. Black Birds in the Sky will be released in October and should be in every high school library and public library. Thank you, Balzer + Bray and NetGalley, for the electronic arc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    HaileyAnne

    I have no words. I was born and raised in the Tulsa area and I'd never even heard of these events until recently. It breaks my heart to think that I've been to this area and had no idea what took place there. Everyone needs to read this. Whether you grew up in Tulsa, another city in Oklahoma, or anywhere, read this. This story needs to be known. I have no words. I was born and raised in the Tulsa area and I'd never even heard of these events until recently. It breaks my heart to think that I've been to this area and had no idea what took place there. Everyone needs to read this. Whether you grew up in Tulsa, another city in Oklahoma, or anywhere, read this. This story needs to be known.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    Add this book to your TBR. I promise you won't regret it! Add this book to your TBR. I promise you won't regret it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    An excellent work of YA nonfiction that should be part of everyone's curriculum. The author does a skillful job of providing a clear and comprehensive account of the events of the massacre, while also providing important context about the larger social environment and how factors like America's slave history and Jim Crow laws contributed to the tragedy. I'd love to read more on this topic, especially given the author's powerful afterword where she illustrates the danger of history repeating itse An excellent work of YA nonfiction that should be part of everyone's curriculum. The author does a skillful job of providing a clear and comprehensive account of the events of the massacre, while also providing important context about the larger social environment and how factors like America's slave history and Jim Crow laws contributed to the tragedy. I'd love to read more on this topic, especially given the author's powerful afterword where she illustrates the danger of history repeating itself when it's not taught or learned.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kellee Moye

    A must buy for all middle and high school classroom and school libraries. Well-written, engaging, truthful, and extremely well-researched.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kenya

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wow. This book absolutely gutted me. I picked up this book 1. Because I wanted to learn more about the Tulsa Race Massacre and 2. I'm a fan of Brandy Colbert. Both reasons were validated upon reading the book. Brandy colbert masterfully crafted the story of how the massacre happened. Using the first few chapters to provide the context and then the later chapters to fully examine the events that happened and the aftermath really helped to drive the story home. This is a heartbreaking and infuriat Wow. This book absolutely gutted me. I picked up this book 1. Because I wanted to learn more about the Tulsa Race Massacre and 2. I'm a fan of Brandy Colbert. Both reasons were validated upon reading the book. Brandy colbert masterfully crafted the story of how the massacre happened. Using the first few chapters to provide the context and then the later chapters to fully examine the events that happened and the aftermath really helped to drive the story home. This is a heartbreaking and infuriating read. One thing that stuck out to me was how much of the massacre/riot happened bc White Tulsans resented the community that Black Tulsans were able to create DESPITE the fact that it was created because of the exclusion of Black Tulsans from their communities. I'm reminded of the Audre Lorde quote: "The Master's tools will never dismantle the Master's house" bc I believe that one thing this proved is that capitalism will never liberate Black people bc White Supremacy and capitalism work hand in hand in subverting Black people in America. An excellent read through and through.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    5 stars It's my hope that many folks immediately recognize this for what it obviously is: required reading. Whether you're like me and find Brandy Colbert's work to be consistently excellent or you are entirely new to this author, the source material is compelling and essential, and anyone who is drawn in by the synopsis will be more than pleased with what Colbert offers in this nonfiction effort. Colbert references the number of people who embarrassingly learned about the central focus from wat 5 stars It's my hope that many folks immediately recognize this for what it obviously is: required reading. Whether you're like me and find Brandy Colbert's work to be consistently excellent or you are entirely new to this author, the source material is compelling and essential, and anyone who is drawn in by the synopsis will be more than pleased with what Colbert offers in this nonfiction effort. Colbert references the number of people who embarrassingly learned about the central focus from watching two HBO shows (and I'll never forgive you for canceling _Lovecraft Country_, HBO, so that's for another day), and I will admit that I am one of those folks. It was largely my horror over not previously knowing this info that drew me - in part - to wanting to read this book: that and my ongoing aforementioned fangirling over Brandy Colbert. I was not disappointed. Here, Colbert provides an age appropriate look at a number of events, context, and social and geographical relationships encompassing the Tulsa Race Massacre. My own experience - and Colbert's affirmation that I'm in good company - leads me to think that this is yet another example of utter cultural erasure and that this book will provide essential missing information to readers of any age. Readers will find this work challenging based on the horrifying facts but also educational, and they will also come out of the experience feeling grateful to know (or to know more). Colbert continues to be an absolute favorite, and this is a great expansion of an already noteworthy list of YA and middle grade contributions. I highly recommend this for folks who are interested in knowing more about the subject and generally being better informed about reality. *Thanks to NetGalley and Balzer + Bray for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own. An added thanks goes to Libro.fm for the Educator ALC that I used to listen to the second half.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kari Ann Sweeney

    A couple of years ago I read 𝘋𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘉𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 by Jennifer Latham. This YA/historical fiction story alternates between present day and the past to the events surrounding the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. I had known very little about this historical event. This didn't sit right with me, so I wanted to learn more. 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐁𝐢𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐈𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐤𝐲- 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐋𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐜𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝟏𝟗𝟐𝟏 𝐓𝐮𝐥𝐬𝐚 𝐑𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐜𝐫𝐞 is a masterfully researched YA non-fiction book that takes a deep dive deep into the history leading up to th A couple of years ago I read 𝘋𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘉𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨 by Jennifer Latham. This YA/historical fiction story alternates between present day and the past to the events surrounding the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. I had known very little about this historical event. This didn't sit right with me, so I wanted to learn more. 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐁𝐢𝐫𝐝𝐬 𝐈𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐤𝐲- 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐋𝐞𝐠𝐚𝐜𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝟏𝟗𝟐𝟏 𝐓𝐮𝐥𝐬𝐚 𝐑𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐜𝐫𝐞 is a masterfully researched YA non-fiction book that takes a deep dive deep into the history leading up to the event. The narrative unfolded over a complex, interconnected timeline. The role the government's laws/restrictions had on the lives of indigenous people, the impact of a post-WWI economy, the allocation and removal of land & resources alongside a rapidly changing social climate. Seeing how all the pieces fit together was infuriating and emotional. The author's compelling afterword reminds us that history matters, stories matter, and the voices telling these stories matter. 𝘈𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘨𝘦𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘫𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪-𝘭𝘺𝘯𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘴𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘭 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴 𝘱𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘳 𝘐𝘥𝘢 𝘉. 𝘞𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘴-𝘉𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘦𝘵𝘵 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘦, "𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐫𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐰𝐫𝐨𝐧𝐠𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐭𝐡 𝐮𝐩𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    ARC provided by Follett First Look This was a great historical reference, but very different from what I thought it would be. There was a lot more information leading up to the event, from descriptions of Greenwood and the people who lived there, but also a lot on slavery and the history of the treatment of Black people in the US. There wasn't as much about the massacre itself, which was fine, because reading about the aftermath was more informative. I imagine that (as with the Stonewall Riots) i ARC provided by Follett First Look This was a great historical reference, but very different from what I thought it would be. There was a lot more information leading up to the event, from descriptions of Greenwood and the people who lived there, but also a lot on slavery and the history of the treatment of Black people in the US. There wasn't as much about the massacre itself, which was fine, because reading about the aftermath was more informative. I imagine that (as with the Stonewall Riots) it was hard to get a good feel for what happened during the event, given the dearth of news reporting about it, especially a hundred years later. I was thinking this might be a bit like Blizzard of Glass, and follow a couple of different perspectives as the events unfolded, but something like that might only be possible in a fictional version. Definitely purchasing, and already have a student who is eager to read the ARC. What would still be great to see would be a middle grade novel set in the prospering town, with details about ordinary every day like over a hundred years ago. Maybe even a novel about World War I from the point of view of a twelve year old living in the area.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Shepard (Between-the-Shelves)

    Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for an advanced copy of this to review! Teen nonfiction isn’t a hugely popular genre, but there have been some real gems that have come out this year. This one included! I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about the Tulsa Race Massacre until I watched Watchmen on HBO, which starts out putting viewers in the middle of the riot. Not only is this a powerful way to start a show, but it brought to light an event that isn’t ever talked about in American history classes. Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins for an advanced copy of this to review! Teen nonfiction isn’t a hugely popular genre, but there have been some real gems that have come out this year. This one included! I’ll admit, I didn’t know much about the Tulsa Race Massacre until I watched Watchmen on HBO, which starts out putting viewers in the middle of the riot. Not only is this a powerful way to start a show, but it brought to light an event that isn’t ever talked about in American history classes. What I liked about Colbert’s book is that she points out why. After this happened, no one talked about it. Silenced in all the newspapers, just swept away like it never happened. If that isn’t proof that history is rewritten in favor of those in power, I don’t know what is. It’s clear that Colbert did a lot of research to make this book accurate. However, the text is still engaging, reading a little like a narrative with facts and context sprinkled throughout. Not only does Colbert give us the history to what lead up to this event, but she also ties it into what’s been happening in the United States since then. These connections make history interesting, and teens who interested in historical nonfiction will definitely engage with this book. Honestly, this is a book that should be used in classrooms and libraries across the country. We need to talk about this history because otherwise we will never move past it. When this book comes out in October, definitely consider adding it to your classroom or school library!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Krajewski

    This nonfiction title introduces the history and events of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which is one of the worst acts of white domestic terrorism in American history. Through extensive research—photographs, interviews, poems, and so much more—author Brandy Colbert proves that the destruction and murders of Black properties and people in Tulsa was not an isolated incident. All of our history is interconnected. Wow. I’ve read other titles about the Tulsa Race Massacre, but Colbert’s is the best yet. This nonfiction title introduces the history and events of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which is one of the worst acts of white domestic terrorism in American history. Through extensive research—photographs, interviews, poems, and so much more—author Brandy Colbert proves that the destruction and murders of Black properties and people in Tulsa was not an isolated incident. All of our history is interconnected. Wow. I’ve read other titles about the Tulsa Race Massacre, but Colbert’s is the best yet. This book is about so much more than just the massacre. Readers will learn about how Tulsa and the Greenwood district came to be, the destruction itself, and why many schools choose to leave this part of American history, among many others, out of curriculums. Colbert’s beautiful prose will keep readers hook from the forward until the end.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ava Budavari

    Like most American white children, I grew up knowing nothing about the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, and Brandy Colbert takes her compulsively readable and dynamic writing style and packs so much information about this event into this little book. I believe that the most important aspect of the way that Colbert writes this story is how she talks about so much more than just the initial event; she dedicates so much time talking about not only its legacy but also what led to this horri Like most American white children, I grew up knowing nothing about the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, and Brandy Colbert takes her compulsively readable and dynamic writing style and packs so much information about this event into this little book. I believe that the most important aspect of the way that Colbert writes this story is how she talks about so much more than just the initial event; she dedicates so much time talking about not only its legacy but also what led to this horrific act of violence. With the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre recently passed, this book is so important and I believe everyone should read it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is the second youth focused book about the Tulsa race massacre that I've read in the last couple weeks. This one focused a lot more on the history and conditions that brought forth the massacre and the longer term impacts of it, where is the other one, a burning, focused a lot more on the event itself and the events immediately surrounding it. Reading them together was actually really helpful. This is the second youth focused book about the Tulsa race massacre that I've read in the last couple weeks. This one focused a lot more on the history and conditions that brought forth the massacre and the longer term impacts of it, where is the other one, a burning, focused a lot more on the event itself and the events immediately surrounding it. Reading them together was actually really helpful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katie Cheung

    If there’s one book that anyone reads this year that I’ve recommended, I hope it’s this one. Black Birds in the Sky details the events of, leading up to, and after the Tulsa Race Massacre as well as explicitly explain the history of race issues in America. If there’s one takeaway from this book it’s that history repeats itself and that it’s going to continue repeating itself until us, as people who live in North America, take the time to learn the history that time has tried to bury. One of my f If there’s one book that anyone reads this year that I’ve recommended, I hope it’s this one. Black Birds in the Sky details the events of, leading up to, and after the Tulsa Race Massacre as well as explicitly explain the history of race issues in America. If there’s one takeaway from this book it’s that history repeats itself and that it’s going to continue repeating itself until us, as people who live in North America, take the time to learn the history that time has tried to bury. One of my favourite reads of the year.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Phillips

    This is the kind of book we need in schools! I so wish we’d had more of this when I was growing up and will definitely be adding it to my home library for my girls when they’re old enough. I lived in Tulsa for a year and never heard anything about the Tulsa Race Massacre or Greenwood. Very timely considering what’s going on in regards to trying to erase history from schools right now. Paired with Dreamland Burning, I highly recommend this!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McPhedran

    A fantastic non fiction book about the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre. I found this book to be so insightful and informative. I think this was so accessible for young adults, while still telling an important part of history, that has been all lost to history. I would totally recommend this to anyone!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Matt Knepper

    Including firsthand accounts from survivors, Brandy Colbert provides a thoroughly researched account of the events and circumstances that led to the Tulsa Race Massacre. More engrossing, however, is her demonstration that this often over-looked historic event is just one example of the pervasive racism that has always been part of this country’s past and continues to persist.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    While I love being a lifelong learner, there are moments (such as while reading this book) that I have to pause and ask myself How did you not know about that? I have a lot to reflect on now. And although I have no desire to spend time in racist southern neighborhoods, if I’m ever near the Greenwood District I’d like to stop and pay my respects.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Erricka Hager

    Loved this because it provided a great historical timeline of all the pieces - government, Black and white citizens, land, & resources - and how they all played an important role in the massacre. This is a must read!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Extremely important story to tell, and very clearly written and well researched.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lonna Pierce

    Highly recommended. Review to follow in School Library Connection.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Lynn

    This review originally appeared on my blog: NicoleLynnReads.com *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 This review originally appeared on my blog: NicoleLynnReads.com *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!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Serad

    this should be required reading for all. a shaking story of race and politics.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Allison Gray

    Clear, lots of context, great historical writing. The afterword wrecked me, because it was a reflection on the power of history and story, highlighting some of the many ongoing horrors of 2014-2020 that we have yet to process and adequately address.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Llyr Heller-Humphreys

    DEFINITELY should be read in High School classes.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Richie Partington

    Richie’s Picks: BLACK BIRDS IN THE SKY: THE STORY AND LEGACY OF THE 1921 TULSA RACE MASSACRE by Brandy Colbert, HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, October 2021, 224p., ISBN: 978-0-06-305666-4 “Zinn’s approach to history essentially inverted the traditional approach that placed the rich and powerful, along with the institutions they governed, as the central motors in the development of society. It was history told from above. Alternatively, Zinn championed an approach to history from the bottom up or from Richie’s Picks: BLACK BIRDS IN THE SKY: THE STORY AND LEGACY OF THE 1921 TULSA RACE MASSACRE by Brandy Colbert, HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, October 2021, 224p., ISBN: 978-0-06-305666-4 “Zinn’s approach to history essentially inverted the traditional approach that placed the rich and powerful, along with the institutions they governed, as the central motors in the development of society. It was history told from above. Alternatively, Zinn championed an approach to history from the bottom up or from the perspective of ‘the people.’ The implications were radical. History was no longer seen as reducible to the expressed will of the elite but as a process elucidated through the actions of ordinary people in their confrontations against the powerful. To tell history from the perspective of the oppressed and marginalized was to recognize that to the degree there has been any progress in the United States, it has come from the struggles of regular people demanding rights, justice, democracy.” -- Professor Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, from her introduction to the 2018 edition of Howard Zinn’s autobiographical YOU CAN’T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN. I learned the basic facts of the Tulsa race massacre from the late professor Howard Zinn. That a vast majority of Americans complete twelve years of public education without hearing one peep about this infamous domestic terrorist attack is an indictment of the nation’s education system. The rich and powerful continue to control the agenda, maintaining a blockade against many uncomfortable truths that are central to a real understanding of US history. This makes BLACK BIRDS IN THE SKY an essential read. In BLACK BIRDS IN THE SKY: THE STORY AND LEGACY OF THE 1921 TULSA RACE MASSACRE, author and journalist Brandy Colbert presents a gripping, detailed account of the racist, terrorist attack in Tulsa one hundred years ago. “The landmark 1896 US Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the legality of Jim Crow legislation, stated spaces and accommodations segregated by race were legal as long as they were comparable; this is where the standard of ‘separate but equal’ was born. The ‘equal’ part rarely came to fruition with Black spaces and accommodations; Greenwood, however, was something of an anomaly in this respect. By 1914, the neighborhood boasted all kinds of Black professionals, from doctors and lawyers to business owners, educators, and newspaper publishers--and they kept their wealth within the community, continually supporting the businesses of what became known nationwide as Black Wall Street.” At the height of the Jim Crow era, the rich and powerful simply could not accept any Black Americans achieving the American Dream. This would undermine the rationale for American apartheid. Thus, the thriving, Black, across-the-tracks section of Tulsa, Oklahoma known as Greenwood was utterly destroyed: “Armed white civilians, the Tulsa police force, and the local National Guard were all working in tandem to disempower the Black Americans fighting for their lives. They ignored the armed white people who were injuring and killing innocent Black children and adults. They ignored the blind, disabled Black man being dragged behind a car down Main Street with a rope around his amputated leg. They ignored the arsonists setting fire to Black businesses and homes, and instead worked to round up the Black community, taking them to internment camps where they were imprisoned solely because they were Black (though officials later claimed this was for their own safety). Firefighters were threatened by armed white people when they attempted to put out the fires in Greenwood, despite the fact that the plumes of black smoke rising in the sky over the African-American neighborhood could be seen from miles away.” On that day, June 1, 1921, the cops, the National Guard, and those in power countenanced the murder of over 300 Black Americans and the incineration of 35 square blocks of homes and thriving businesses. An event like this does not happen in a vacuum. Brandy Colbert guides us through the history of being Black in America, as well as the history of Oklahoma. In doing so, and in chronicling what Black America has endured, she provides context and comprehension as to what happened in Tulsa and how such behavior was so thoroughly normalized and condoned. It sucks that, in our 21st century information age, it took news coverage of the centennial’s commemoration for the typical American to (possibly) hear that it occurred. BLACK BIRDS IN THE SKY, appropriate for middle school and high school audiences, was not a particularly ‘fun’ read. But for this privileged white male, whose childhood nightmares included the experience of a nearby house under construction having been firebombed--twice--because of who was moving into it, it’s a revealing, moving, and satisfying read. Richie Partington, MLIS Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com https://www.facebook.com/richiespicks/ https://twitter.com/richiespicks [email protected]

  30. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    4.5/5 This is an incredible and necessary book that readers of all ages should be seeking out. I, like so many, was never taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre in school and only found out about it after seeking out information on my own as an adult, and seeing it portrayed in the media, notably the first episode of HBO's Watchmen series. (And even though I went to school in Canada where this likely wouldn't have been on the curriculum, I know that many Americans I know were deliberately not taugh 4.5/5 This is an incredible and necessary book that readers of all ages should be seeking out. I, like so many, was never taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre in school and only found out about it after seeking out information on my own as an adult, and seeing it portrayed in the media, notably the first episode of HBO's Watchmen series. (And even though I went to school in Canada where this likely wouldn't have been on the curriculum, I know that many Americans I know were deliberately not taught about it in high school/college either). This book is a very accessible way to get the larger picture and to understand both what led to this moment, and how its effects rippled through 20th century America. I thought Brandy Colbert's personal investment in the story — having grown up in the area and never learning about it — made her a great conduit for this story. She's not coming to it as a scholar or expert looking to educate the masses. She is coming to it as a writer and journalist whose unending curiosity would present the information in a way that invites discussion, that presents the event in historical context, but still feels deeply personal. This is actually the first of her books that I've read, but the voice she brings to this narrative strikes just the right tone. Neither too academic nor too casual, which keeps the reader engaged.  The only real limits of this book are the limits that history has put on it. Much of the work is spent on the lead-up to the attacks and the aftermath, with a single chapter devoted to the day itself. Given the limited on-the-ground resources and first-hand accounts that we have access to, a nonfiction account actually may seem less thorough than one that paints the day with a fictionalized brush, such as that episode of Watchmen that turned so many people onto the real history. Part of me wanted to learn more, see more of the people who were affected that day, but I understand that Colbert couldn't include scenes that weren't based in fact. It did make me curious to look up novels or stories that may have recounted the day, to see how they get into the minds of those who lived through it. It goes to show how powerful a vehicle fiction can be for learning about history, and I admire what this book does with the resources available.  I will say, the context leading up to and after the massacre is vital, and I was grateful to be able to read about it here. I learned so much, from the history of Indigenous settlements in Oklahoma to the land rushes to slavery in the territory and beyond. These stories too are often suppressed to make way for that American exceptionalism, and providing the warts-and-all history is so important, especially if we are to learn anything from it.  It feels very appropriate that this is the 100th book I read in 2021, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of the massacre. I can only hope this book finds its way into classrooms and onto shelves where those who really need to read it can find it, and that more fiction and nonfiction will tackle the topic now that more information is coming to light. 

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