On 31 May 1921, in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a mob of white men and women reduced a prosperous African American community, known as Black Wall Street, to rubble, leaving countless dead and unaccounted for, and thousands of homes and businesses destroyed. But along with the bodies, they buried the secrets of the crime. Scott Ellsworth, a native of Tulsa, became determined to unearth the secrets of his home town. Now, nearly 40 years after his first major historical account of the massacre, Ellsworth returns to the city in search of answers. Along with a prominent African American forensic archaeologist whose family survived the riots, Ellsworth has been tasked with locating and exhuming the mass graves and identifying the victims for the first time. But the investigation is not simply to find graves or bodies - it is a reckoning with one of the darkest chapters of American history.
' Absolutely riveting . . . With a stunning combination of objectivity and empathy, it demonstrates how even in polarized times we can come together in pursuit of truth. . . . Anyone interested in America' s future should read it as a template for the reconciliation that lies ahead. ' -- Tim Blake Nelson ' The persistence, empathy and painstaking research of The Ground Breaking move us much closer to the justice that the victims of Greenwood, and the people of America, deserve. Heartbreaking and inspiring. ' -- Beto O' Rourke ' The Ground Breaking will rattle you, and it should. It will move you toward a harder wisdom, and it must. ' -- Tim Tyson ' I believe that the path of true racial reconciliation runs through millions of American Whites, whose hearts would be changed if they only knew our history. To those people I would simply say this: Please read this book. ' -- Tim Madigan ' Immensely readable and thoroughly engaging, The Ground Breaking is a remarkable blend of history and memoir that could not be more timely and informative. ' -- Gilbert King ' This book should be essential reading for anyone interested in an honest grappling with our racial past and with the task of moving forward. ' -- Kenneth W. Mack ' In a time marked by raw nativism, gangster capitalism and white supremacy off its leash, well-funded mobs winked at from above committed racially-driven mass terror against Black citizens and American democracy. Those who find themselves mystified when America' s white power movement storms the U. S. Capitol in 2021 need to take a good look back at Tulsa, Oklahoma a century ago. ' -- Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II ' A brilliant update that recounts the events with the swiftness of an especially grim crime thriller. . . . An essential historical record surrounding heinous events that have yet to be answered with racial justice. ' * Kirkus Reviews (starred review) * ' [A] riveting investigation into the origins and aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre . . . Interviews with survivors and reflections on the debate over reparations and the social, economic, and racial divisions of modern-day Tulsa add depth to Ellsworth' s portrait of a community attempting to heal from an unimaginable injustice. This eloquent, deeply moving history isn' t to be missed. ' * Publishers Weekly, starred review *
Scott Ellsworth is an award-winning author and professor of history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book, The World Beneath Their Feet (John Murray, 2020) - described as ' gripping' by the Sunday Times - is the story of the international race to conquer the Himalayas.