Scott Ellsworth: The Tulsa Race Massacre

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Dr. Scott Ellsworth, who joined the DAAS faculty in 2007, teaches courses on African American history, Southern literature, race and sports, and crime and justice in contemporary U.S. society. Trained as a historian, he received his Ph.D from Duke University in 1982, where he was a member of the Duke Oral History Program. The author of Death in a Promised Land, the first-ever comprehensive history of the horrific 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Dr. Ellsworth is helping to lead the ongoing effort to uncover the unmarked graves of massacre victims. Formerly a historian with the Smithsonian Institution, he has written about American history for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and has appeared on National Public Radio, the TODAY Show, PBS's The American Experience, the History Channel, the BBC, and in both film and broadcast documentaries. His book, The Secret Game, won a 2016 PEN Book Award, and was named by the Chicago Tribune as one of the Top Ten Books of the Year. His newest book, The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice, was released in May 2021.

The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice description:

More than 1,000 homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors’ offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air.

Over the course of less than 24 hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa’s infamous “Black Wall Street” was wiped off the map - and erased from the history books. Official records were disappeared, researchers were threatened, and the worst single incident of racial violence in American history was kept hidden for more than 50 years. But there were some secrets that would not die.

A riveting and essential new book, The Ground Breaking not only tells the long-suppressed story of the notorious Tulsa race massacre. It also unearths the lost history of how the massacre was covered up, and of the courageous individuals who fought to keep the story alive. Most important, it recounts the ongoing archaeological saga and the search for the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre, and of the fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families.

Both a forgotten chronicle from the nation’s past and a story ripped from today’s headlines, The Ground Breaking is a pause-resister reflection on how we, as Americans, must wrestle with the parts of our history that have been buried for far too long.

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Follow Scott on Twitter and Instagram.

Purchase The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice.

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