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The Burning

The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

Tim Madigan

St. Martin's Griffin

The Burning Download image

ISBN10: 1250800722
ISBN13: 9781250800725

Trade Paperback

368 Pages



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On the morning of June 1, 1921, a white mob numbering in the thousands marched across the railroad tracks dividing black from white in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and obliterated a black community then celebrated as one of America's most prosperous. Nearly 80 years later, the death toll of what is known as the Tulsa Race Riot is very difficult to pinpoint. Conservative estimates put the number of dead at about 100 (75% of the victims are believed to have been black), but the actual number of casualties could be tripled. Whatever the final count, it is certain that atrocities of the massacre rivaled the worst of wartime. With chilling details, humanity, and the narrative thrust of compelling fiction, The Burning recreates the town of Greenwood at the height of its prosperity, explores the currents of hatred, racism, and mistrust between its black residents and neighboring Tulsa's white population, narrates events leading up to and including Greenwood's annihilation, and documents the subsequent silence that surrounded this great tragedy.


Praise for The Burning

"A powerful book, a harrowing case study made all the more so by Madigan's skillful, clear-eyed telling of it."—Adam Nossiter, The New York Times Book Review

"Such chilling detail and clarity that can almost smell the smoke and hear the cries. This is historical reporting at its best."—Larry Cox, Arizona Daily Star

"The Burning is a bold and worthwhile beginning. With its richness of horrifying detail, the book compels our attention, restoring the hateful episode's ghastly but necessary claim on the public conscience."—Morning Star Telegram

"Tim Madigan's exploration of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 memorializes not simply a shocking chapter in the history of race relations in America, but a shocking chapter in all of history. It is a chapter swollen with sadness and wrenching horror and the very worst of humankind. The villainy is everywhere, and yet Madigan somehow manages to tell the story of what happened with grace, purity, and haunting starkness. A troubling book that lingers long after the last page has been turned. But also a beautiful one."—Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights

"Madigan provides a riveting account of one of the most shameful episodes in the troubled history of race relations in the United States. This cultural and sociological dissection of a twentieth-century tragedy makes difficult but compelling reading."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist

"Madigan here tackles one of America's worst race riots, chronicling the shocking events of May 31 and June 1, 1921 when a white mob numbering in the thousands obliterated the African American community of Greenwood, OK, near Tulsa. Race riots and tensions were very common after World War I, but what makes the Greenwood incident unique was the unheard-of organization of the mob and the completeness of the destruction (35 city blocks systematically burned and destroyed along with hundreds of casualties). Though it is arguably America's worst race riot, surprisingly little has been written about it in the mainstream press. For this work, Madigan relied on taped interviews of survivors and witnesses, newspaper accounts, scholarly papers and theses, and interviews with the descendants of survivors. What results is a highly readable account of the circumstances and history surrounding the event and its aftermath. Truly an eye-opening book, this is essential reading for anyone struggling to understand race relations in America."—Robert Flatley, Frostburg State University, Maryland, Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt



On a warm May night in 1913, in the shadowy lamplight of Greenwood’s First Baptist Church, Mrs. Lucy Davis read the audience a short essay on love, and the Rollison sisters nervously...