Illustrated by Stacey Robinson
This book seeks to chronicle the success that was Greenwood, Oklahoma, a portion of the city of Tulsa that was a completely segregated Black community. Several Black business owners, entrepreneurs, and real-estate investors had a vision for a community that could be sustained entirely without white businesses, and they went about creating a thriving town with grocery stores, entertainment venues, mortgage offices, banks, and just about everything else you need in a town. Because so much was offered, much of the Black community spent their money in Greenwood, rather than in Tulsa, and money was spent several times over inside Greenwood before going to white businesses. Greenwood got the nickname "Black Wall Street" from Booker T. Washington when he came on a visit. Then, a race war came to Tulsa, with claims that a young Black man touched a white woman. Residents of Greenwood armed themselves and marched on the courthouse to protect the young man. But white residents of Tulsa were also marching on the court house, and the ensuing battle resulted in the destruction of most of Greenwood, the implementation of a military state, the deputization of hundreds of armed white Tulsans, and the systematic execution of many of Greenwood's residents.
The main message of this book is to preserve the prosperity of Greenwood, rather than be a retelling of the violence that ended it. The actual massacre is only depicted over a few pages. This book spends most of its time showing the city and how this segregated town could sustain itself. While this might draw criticism, especially since the Tulsa Race Massacre is listed in the subtitle, I feel this story goes more into the celebration of Black Achievement. You hear it often around Black History Month - if you start the celebration of this month with a discussion of slavery, then you're leaning into the idea that the most important part about Black History is Black pain. Rather, this book celebrates the notion that a Black community could thrive economically and have a rich society all on its own, if actually given the opportunity to do so. Overall, my main complaint is just how short this novel is. With 64 pages, this book is more of an overview, and it could have delved more into the individual people who helped build Greenwood and make it successful.
Robinson illustrated the people a bit cartoony, but her landscapes and cityscapes are really beautiful. This review copy was in grayscale, but the few included color pages make this something to definitely look forward to.
There is no violence shown on the page. Men hold guns, and shots are fired, but there is very little bloodshed, and most of the violent acts are told, not seen. There is nothing objectionable or difficult for middle school readers, provided they have a little bit of historical context for which to anchor this text.
Sara's Rating: 7/10
Suitability level: Grades 7-12
This review was made possible with an advanced reader copy from the publisher through Net Galley. This graphic novel will be on sale May 4, 2021.
Tags: Rating: 7/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction, History, Race Relations, CSLA 2021
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