Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre


8-12 years

  • History
  • Racism
  • Activism
  • Violence
  • Bravery
  • Courage

Carole Boston Weatherford

& Floyd Cooper


How many of you have heard of Black Wall Street (Tulsa’s or Durham’s)? Or even about the event that this book explores? I personally didn’t learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre until graduate school, when a friend of mine wrote a paper about journalists Walter White and Faith Hieronymous. Walter White was an NAACP member and both worked immediately after the massacre, actively gathering incriminating evidence while white officials were making concerted efforts to cover up their involvement in orchestrating the events. Which also, there’s something to be said that the first time I learned about the event was in a white (albeit anti-racist) context, rather than learning about Black Wall Street or the Tulsa event itself. An article from Tulsa World gives a breakdown of events, and here is an article that Faith wrote! This last article linked here is a bunch of different links to historical primary sources if you want to do any further reading as well.

Carole Boston Weatherford has written another beautiful, future classic. The story goes in-depth about the achievements and bustling Greenwood community that was thriving. When a shoeshiner was accused of assaulting a white elevator operator, a two-day attack was launched on Greenwood. Floyd Cooper adds his powerful illustrations and memories of surviving the massacre from his grandfather, who is pictured in the back of the book.

Although a memorial stands now, the point remains that for nearly a century, the event was not investigated, taught, or discussed. Police and city officials had plotted the massacre. Hundreds died, thousands left homeless. Racist actions are baked into the Black experience just as much as resilience and joy is. It is because of the inequity, stolen livelihoods, and kidnapping that the resilience and joy is so revolutionary. I strive to teach and amplify books by Black creators all year round, not just February. My true hope is that one day phrases like “diverse books” and “social justice education” are unneeded. Reading books and learning about history that doesn’t present white oppressors as righteous. Unspeakable presents the 1921 events in an age-appropriate and meaningful way for readers. It has additional information and photographs in the background, and I’m so glad that it’s out in the world and was brought to life by such talented creators.

This book was sent by from Lerner, and it’s out now. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to review it, and all opinions are my own!

Carole Boston Weatherford

Carole Boston Weatherford is Baltimore-born and raised! Carole composed her first poem in first grade and dictated the verse to her mother on the ride home from school. Her father, a high school printing teacher, printed some of her early poems on index cards. Since her literary debut with Juneteenth Jamboree in 1995, Carole’s books have received three Caldecott Honors, two NAACP Image Awards, an SCBWI Golden Kite Award, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor and many other honors.

For career achievements, Carole received the Ragan-Rubin Award from North Carolina English Teachers Association and the North Carolina Literature Award, among the state’s highest civilian honors. She holds an M.A. in publications design from University of Baltimore and an M.F.A. in creative writing from University of North Carolina, Greensboro. She is a Professor of English at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

Floyd Cooper

Floyd Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in The Blacker the Berry and a Coretta Scott King Honor for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma and, after graduating, worked as an artist for a major greeting card company. In 1984, he came to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator of books, and he now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.

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