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Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy 1St Edition Edition

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0618108138
ISBN-10: 0618108130
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Try as one might to disguise and forget the shameful events of the past, murder will out. So James Hirsch, author of the acclaimed book Hurricane, shows in this careful examination of a particularly shameful episode in modern American history. On the evening of May 31, 1921, fueled by rumors and newspaper headlines charging that a young black man had assaulted a young white women, a mob of armed white citizens burned much of the predominantly African American Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the ground. More than 35, and as many as 300, Tulsans died, most of them black. Tulsa's city fathers did all they could to keep the news of this mass lynching from spreading; they found convenient scapegoats (including a blameless but prominent African American businessman) and went about excising mention of the Greenwood affair from official documents. Yet the memory of the crime lived on, and Hirsch's narrative shows how modern Tulsans translated that memory into justice--or at least the possibility thereof.

A remarkable book on an astonishing incident too long overlooked, Riot and Remembrance tells us that history does not always belong to the victors, and that the past is never truly forgotten. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

"But our boys who had learned their lesson/ On the blood-stained soil of France/ How to fight on the defensive/ Proposed not to take a chance." This rousing piece of verse is not a post-WWI veterans' drinking song but a poem recounting African-American resistance to a white riot ignited when blacks banded together to stop a 1921 Tulsa, Okla., lynching. But despite the bravery displayed, the riot, which was the worst in U.S. history, was a cataclysmic event in which the entire prosperous black neighborhood of Greenwood 1,256 homes, churches, stores, schools, hospitals and a library was looted and burned to the ground, while three hundred people were killed and the black residents were finally forced at gunpoint into detention centers. Even more shocking is that the event has been virtually wiped from history with newspaper accounts, police records and state militia records destroyed. Hirsch's reconstruction of this history, which reads as a horrifying narrative, is illuminating and grim. Relying on oral histories, investigative journalism, court and archival records as well as published memoirs and government reports, Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Hurricane Carter) paints a complex portrait of a prosperous city where oil was discovered in 1901 and where African-Americans had obtained some degree of economic and cultural independence in a state with an already troubled history of racial tension. Political organizing by the International Workers of the World in 1917 had set the stage for social unrest; veteran status gave black men a new identity after WWI. Hirsch unearths an important episode in U.S. history with verve, intelligence and compassion. (Feb.)Forecast: This book may not hit bestseller lists, but it could be shortlisted for awards. The fight for economic compensation to Greenwood's victims can be related to the larger current struggle for reparations for African-Americans.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: .
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1St Edition edition (February 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618108130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618108138
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #651,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James S. Hirsch is former reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of four nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller, Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and their children, Amanda and Garrett.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
On May 31st, 1921, a race riot broke out in Tulsa, Oklahoma which resulted in the loss of about 300 lives and destruction of many homes, businesses, and hotels. The riot occurred due to a major misunderstanding between the white and African American communities; this misunderstanding was a result of segregation and the political and social attitudes of the day. The effects of the riot made a big scar in Tulsa's history; even today Tulsa is trying come to terms with the events surrounding the riot.
In "Riot and Remembrance", James Hirsch does an excellent job describing the riot from the perspectives of both communities. Besides just stating facts and figures, Mr. Hirsch offers his own analysis on how the riot occurred. His lengthy and thoughtful research is apparent due to the many sources that he references in the course of the book. Mr. Hirsch also remains objective in portraying both sides of the riot.
The most moving parts of the book are the tales from the survivors, and what the survivors have done after the riot. I especially like how the book starts with stories from the riot itself; the perspective then changes to the events leading up to the riot.
I've enjoyed both of Mr. Hirsch's books, "Hurricane" and "Riot and Remembrance", and I am looking forward to the next one!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tanja L. Walker on December 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I had only heard of the Tulsa race riot of 1921 a few years ago, even though I went to high school in the early 1980s in Bartlesville, OK, 45 miles north of Tulsa (and have driven on the highways that now run through the Greenwood section more times than I can count). I remember the fear that was passed on to me about that section of Tulsa and the dread of facing students from its high school whenever we played them in football, a darker fear than seemed warranted for a city of its size. Now, knowing the history of the race riots and the fears both sides had of sparking another one, I understand why.

Hirsch does an amazing job of piecing together from both "official" and oral history the story of the riot, as well as what led up to it, and the racial climate surrounding the event. While he clearly favors the "black" side of the story, he doesn't give in to the most extreme views, and he does give the "white" views time and space. He also points out the difficult questions of reparations, and why there are no easy answers. Most importantly, "Riot and Remembrance" shows the readers why history can never be neatly tied up and packaged. We will probably never know the details of what happened on the ugly night and day of May 31-June 1, 1921, in Tulsa. We'll never know for sure the death toll, or what exactly was in the hearts of the African-Americans, the "ruffian" white, or the city leaders who coveted the Greenwood land. But at least with Hirsch's book, we have a chance to ponder all sides and draw our own conclusions.

And, by the way, this is one Oklahoman who thinks the state and city SHOULD pay reparations in the form of scholarships and economic development in North Tulsa. I suspect I am in the minority, though!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn Turnbull on February 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In addition to an important new chapter about race relations in America, James Hirsch's book is must reading for anyone interested in how histories are suppressed and can be rescued. There is no more important story that no one knows than the one covered here. The fact that the Tulsa riot never made it into our history books makes one wonder what other aspects of our collective past have slipped our notice.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Finally,the 1921 Tulsa race riot is examined in a serious book published by a mainstream publisher. The disgraceful actions of that day have been deliberately ignored or played down for decades. James S. Hirsch does a masterful job of bringing this ugly and still little known piece of history to life.
Kimberley Lindsay Wilson, author of Work It! The Black Woman's Guide to Success at Work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on January 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I read Martha Southgate's novel of three generations of black Tulsa women, each hiding a horrible tragedy. The name of the book is THIRD GIRL FROM THE LEFT. The oldest woman, Mildred, has lived through the Tulsa race riots of 1921 and has kept her secrets well. After reading this accomplished novel I wanted to know more about the holocaust in Tulsa, and to find out why it was so underreported at the time and for the next 50 years. James Hirsch's book seems to be about the best of a new crop of revisionist history, and I read the whole thing in about two and a half hours.

At this late date there is no smoking gun, and a five month search for rumored mass graves in the surrounding areas of Tulsa proper turned up nothing out of the ordinary. That will never stop people from assuming that more than the 36 victims of vigilante action were killed, their bodies disposed of summarily. Hirsch thinks that the figure is probably somewhere between 75 and 300. Thousands of people lost their homes, and acres of Greenwood, the so called "black Wall Street" were burned to the ground. The famed historian John Hope Franklin came to Tulsa four years after the riots and bears witness today to the sense that, in 1920 black Oklahomans had made some definite progress, but after the catastrophe they lost their confidence and never could make up the backwards steps. Of course trauma studies indicate that such a devastating blow can never be recuperated, not entirely. That is why the issue of reparations has come to the forefront of the debate in recent times, for it seems, following Freud, that money is the only thing that people really sit up and take notice of, and as such it is the only proper way of dissolving guilt from human relations.
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