The Burning (Young Readers Edition): Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

Holt. May 2021. 320p. adapted by adapted by Hilary Beard. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250787699.
Gr 6 Up–Eye-opening and immersive, this book is essential antiracist reading. Written by Madigan and adapted by Beard for young readers, this in-depth work of narrative nonfiction peels back the layers of the burning and massacre of Greenwood, a 35-block part of Tulsa, OK, in 1921. Also known as “Black Wall Street,” Greenwood was a bustling, thriving community of Black Americans that became the target of white racist rage, violence, and destruction after a Black 19-year-old named Dick Rowland was accused of accosting a white 17-year-old named Sarah Page. Madigan and Beard weave together a complex history of the setting, beginning with enslavement times, and by peppering the chapters with perspectives of victims and survivors. These personal stories sometimes get bogged down in the depth of history that is required to set the stage for the unfolding of the deadliest domestic outbreak of violence since the Civil War. Upwards of 300 deaths, $50–$100 million in damages in today’s dollars, over 1,000 homes burned, and dozens of businesses looted and torched: the reader is asked to grapple with the virulent racism of the times, which still plays out in Tulsa’s systemic injustices today. As Beard notes in the introduction, readers, especially Black youth, should take caution when reading about lynching, mobs, and massacre.
VERDICT Though the work is at times weighty and narratively dense, confronting this history is the only way we can move forward to a just, antiracist future. Recommended.

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