Books: Non-Fiction

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

Book - Non-fiction. By Brandy Colbert. 216 pp. 2021. History of Oklahoma including Trail of Tears, Reconstruction, Black towns, Red Summer, Jim Crow, Black and white newspapers, lynchings, Tulsa Race Massacre, and the ongoing fight for reparations and historical memory.
Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century, 21st Century
Themes: African American, Reconstruction, Native American, Racism & Racial Identity

In the young adult text Black Birds in the Sky, author Brandy Colbert makes it clear that the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 was not only a devastating attack on one community, but part of a history of violence against African Americans.

The attack on the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, that began on May 31, 1921, was triggered in part by a mob of whites seeking to punish an African American teenager for allegedly assaulting a white woman. However, this exploration shows that the violence that destroyed the thriving community known as Black Wall Street was part of a long history of brutality and displacement.

In addition to describing the event itself and the subsequent active suppression of information about it, Colbert provides important context for the founding of Tulsa, as Muscogee (Creek) people who were forcibly removed from their land by the U.S. government settled there in 1833.

The end of Reconstruction saw paroxysms of violence and the rise in discriminatory laws against African Americans, and many sought sanctuary in Indian Territory.

By weaving together many elements, this sophisticated volume makes clear that the destruction of Black property and lives in the Tulsa Race Massacre was not an isolated incident. Beginning with the author’s personal foreword and continuing throughout the detailed narrative, readers are guided to see the complex, interconnected nature of history.

The clear, readable prose supports a greater understanding both of how and why incidents like the one in Tulsa happened and their exclusion from curriculum and conversations about U.S. history. [Description from Kirkus.]

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