Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper.

Renowned illustrator Floyd Cooper didn’t learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre when he was in school. Instead, he heard about the atrocities from his grandfather, who experienced the terror, hatred, and horror of witnessing the murder of African Americans and the destruction of their property in the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Okla. In this profoundly moving children’s picture book, Cooper joins with author Carole Boston Weatherford, whose ancestors also experienced “racial backlash,” to share the facts of what happened and to record the toll this bitter injustice took on African Americans. 

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, an angry mob of white people attacked Black people in the Greenwood District, looting their homes and businesses and burning them to the ground. As the white police stood by refusing to do anything to stop the violence, at least 300 Black people were killed and more than 8,000 were left homeless. The news of the Tulsa Race Massacre was suppressed for decades. Finally, 75 years later, an investigation was launched and the ugly truth disclosed—“police and city officials had plotted with the white mob to destroy the nation’s wealthiest Black community.”  

Today in Tulsa, the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park remembers the victims of the massacre and the contributions of African Americans to the state of Oklahoma. But its purpose is not just to help people remember. Boston Weatherford says, “It is a place to realize the responsibility we all have to reject hatred and violence and to instead choose hope.”  

Because of its difficult subject matter, adult guidance for young readers would give opportunity to answer hard questions that might arise. Christian parents, teachers, or caregivers could use this book as a springboard to talk about how God created all people in his image, how God hates injustice, and how God wants all his children to seek shalom. (Carolrhoda Books)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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