Riot and Remembrance by James S. Hirsch
The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy

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Synopsis

A best-selling author investigates the causes of the twentieth century's deadliest race riot and how its legacy has scarred and shaped a community over the past eight decades.

On a warm night in May 1921, thousands of whites, many deputized by the local police, swarmed through the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing scores of blacks, looting, and ultimately burning the neighborhood to the ground. In the aftermath, as many as 300 were dead, and 6,000 Greenwood residents were herded into detention camps.

James Hirsch focuses on the de facto apartheid that brought about the Greenwood riot and informed its eighty-year legacy, offering an unprecedented examination of how a calamity spawns bigotry and courage and how it has propelled one community's belated search for justice. Tulsa's establishment and many victims strove to forget the events of 1921, destroying records pertaining to the riot and refusing even to talk about it. This cover-up was carried through the ensuing half-century with surprising success. Even so, the riot wounded Tulsa profoundly, as Hirsch demonstrates in a compelling combination of history, journalism, and character study. White Tulsa thrived, and the city became a stronghold of Klan activity as workingmen and high civic officials alike flocked to the Hooded Order. Meanwhile, Greenwood struggled as residents strove to rebuild their neighborhood despite official attempts to thwart them. As the decades passed, the economic and social divides between white and black worlds deepened. Through the 1960s and 1970s, urban renewal helped to finish what the riot had started, blighting Greenwood. Paradoxically, however, the events of 1921 saved Tulsa from the racial strife that befell so many other American cities in the 1960s, as Tulsans white and black would do almost anything to avoid a reprise of the riot.

Hirsch brings the riot's legacy up to the present day, tracing how the memory of the massacre gradually revived as academics and ordinary citizens of all colors worked tirelessly to uncover evidence of its horrors. Hirsch also highlights Tulsa's emergence at the forefront of the burgeoning debate over reparations. RIOT AND REMEMBRANCE shows vividly, chillingly, how the culture of Jim Crow caused not only the grisly incidents of 1921 but also those of Rosewood, Selma, and Watts, as well as less widely known atrocities. It also addresses the cruel irony that underlies today's battles over affirmative action and reparations: that justice and reconciliation are often incompatible goals. Finally, Hirsch details how Tulsa may be overcoming its horrific legacy, as factions long sundered at last draw together.

 

About James S. Hirsch

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James S. Hirsch, a former reporter for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, is the author of Cheating Destiny, the bestseller Hurricane: The Miracle Journey of Rubin Carter, Riot and Remembrance: The Tulsa Race War and Its Legacy, and Two Souls Indivisible: The Friendship That Saved Two POWs in Vietnam. He is also a principal of Close Concerns, a consultancy and publishing company that specializes in diabetes. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and their children, Amanda and Garrett.
 
Published February 22, 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 368 pages
Genres: History. Non-fiction

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This was one of many measures taken by Tulsa civic leaders to hush up the events that followed: a crowd of some 1,500 armed whites met the black marchers, shots ensued, and hours later the predominantly African-American section of Tulsa called Greenwood was in flames.

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Publishers Weekly

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Relying on oral histories, investigative journalism, court and archival records as well as published memoirs and government reports, Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Hurricane Carter) paints a complex portrait of a prosperous city where oil was discovered in 1901 and where African-Ame...

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Star Tribune

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Hirsch, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and the author of "Hurricane," a bestselling account of the legal problems of boxer Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, uses history, journalism and character study to compose a narrative of the riot and the late-1990s debate over reparations for the riot's vic...

Mar 02 2002 | Read Full Review of Riot and Remembrance: The Tul...

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The question of reparations to black Americans for slavery’s legacy seemed to have found a perfect arena for debate when the city of Tulsa last year examined the 1921 clash between whites and blacks in that Oklahoma city.

Feb 03 2002 | Read Full Review of Riot and Remembrance: The Tul...

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