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Deep Greenwood: The Lingering Legacies of Urban Renewal

February 1 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Local author and National Magazine Award nominee Victor Luckerson is partnering with Tulsa colleges, bookstores and community organizations on a series of free events aimed at expanding the understanding of Greenwood far beyond the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The series, titled Deep Greenwood: A Tulsa Community Read, will expand on the themes and issues highlighted in Built From the Fire, Luckerson’s acclaimed new history book about the Greenwood District.

“The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred over two days, but the story of Greenwood stretches across more than a century. It’s a story that has its horrors, but it also has a lot of hope,” Luckerson said. “It’s important to honor and acknowledge that full history.”

Across a series of five events, Deep Greenwood examines the 118-year history of Greenwood step by step, with each event capturing a different era. The series will begin by exploring the racist politics in Tulsa that preceded the massacre, and end with an opportunity to imagine new possibilities for Greenwood’s future. In between, attendees will learn more about Greenwood’s vibrant culture and nightlife, the impacts of urban renewal, and the legacy of activism in the neighborhood. The events will incorporate musical performances, photo exhibits, and more to go beyond the boundaries of a traditional book talk.

In the third event on Thursday February 1, Victor and Greenwood photographer Don Thompson will discuss the personal and policy impacts of urban renewal. The two will juxtapose visuals from Luckerson’s research of government sources (redlining and urban renewal maps) with Thompson’s poignant images of the neighborhood’s second destruction.

Built From the Fire is now available for purchase at Magic City Books or online: https://magiccitybooks.square.site/product/built-from-the-fire-signed-/1177.

About Built from the Fire

A multigenerational saga of a family and a community in Tulsa’s Greenwood district, known as “Black Wall Street,” that in one century survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, urban renewal, and gentrification

When Ed Goodwin moved with his parents to Greenwood, Tulsa, in 1914, his family joined a growing community on the cusp of becoming a national center of black life. But, just seven years later, on May 31, 1921, the teenaged Ed hid in a bathtub as a white mob descended on his neighborhood, laying waste to thirty-five blocks and murdering as many as three hundred people. The Tulsa Race Massacre was one of the most brutal acts of racist violence in U.S. history, a ruthless attempt to smother a spark of black independence.

But that was never the whole story of Greenwood. The Goodwins and their neighbors soon rebuilt it into “a Mecca,” in Ed’s words, where nightlife thrived, small businesses flourished, and an underworld economy lived comfortably alongside public storefronts. Prosperity and poverty intermixed, and icons from W.E.B. Du Bois to Muhammad Ali ambled down Greenwood Avenue, alongside maids, doctors, and every occupation in between. Ed grew into a prominent businessman and bought a newspaper called the Oklahoma Eagle to chronicle Greenwood’s resurgence and battles against white bigotry. He and his wife, Jeanne, raised an ambitious family, and their son Jim, an attorney, embodied their hopes for the Civil Rights Movement in his work. But by the 1970s, urban renewal policies had nearly emptied the neighborhood, even as Jim and his neighbors tried to hold on to it. Today, while new high-rises and encroaching gentrification risk wiping out Greenwood’s legacy for good, the family newspaper remains, and Ed’s granddaughter Regina represents the neighborhood in the Oklahoma state legislature, working alongside a new generation of local activists.

In Built from the Fire, journalist Victor Luckerson moves beyond the mythology of Black Wall Street to tell the story of an aspirant black neighborhood that, like so many others, has long been buffeted by racist government policies. Through the eyes of dozens of race massacre survivors and their descendants, Luckerson delivers an honest, moving portrait of this potent national symbol of success and solidarity–and weaves an epic tale about a neighborhood that refused, more than once, to be erased.

Victor Luckerson is a journalist and author based in Tulsa who works to bring neglected black history to light. He is a former staff writer at The Ringer and business reporter for Time magazine. His writing and research have appeared in The New YorkerThe New York TimesWired, and Smithsonian. He was nominated for a National Magazine Award for his reporting in Time on the 1923 Rosewood Massacre. He also manages an email newsletter about underexplored aspects of black history called Run It Back.


OSU-Tulsa Auditorium
700 N Greenwood Ave
Tulsa, OK 74106 United States
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