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

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Notes From Black Reads

The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the most devastating and significant events in United States history, and yet students rarely learn about it in school. In Black Birds in the Sky, author Brandy Colbert provides an unflinching account of the Tulsa Race Massacre and answers questions about why it happened and how it continues to affect our country today. Informative and immersive, this is a must-read for all.

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. Winner, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

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.

YALSA Honor Award for Excellence in Nonfiction

ISBN-13: 9780063056671

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication Date: 10-04-2022

Pages: 224

Product Dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

Brandy Colbert is the award-winning author of several books for children and teens, including Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which was the winner of the 2022 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction and a finalist for the American Library Association's Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award. Her other acclaimed books include Pointe, The Voting Booth, The Only Black Girls in Town, and the Stonewall Book Award winner Little & Lion. A member of the faculty at Hamline University's MFA program in writing for children, Brandy lives in Los Angeles. You can find her online at

Table of Contents

Foreword 1

May 30, 1921 13

1 Oklahoma! Soon Be Livin' in a Brand-New State 19

2 To Be Black in America 43

3 Fighting for Survival 69

May 31, 1921 91

4 Black Wall Street Comes Alive 103

5 Extra! Extra! Read All About It!, or the Promise of a Lynching 119

June 1, 1921 135

6 The Aftermath 153

7 The Legacy of Greenwood 167

Afterword 189

Acknowledgments 205

Source List and Images Credits 207

Index 215