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GREENWOOD Dist.–Local author and National Magazine Award nominee Victor Luckerson is taking his new book, “Built from the Fire,” on a different kind of tour to connect the history of Greenwood to people and places in the present day. The series, titled “Deep Greenwood: A Tulsa Community Read”, will expand on the themes and issues highlighted in Built From the Fire in easily digestible conversations to encourage critical discussions about the past, present and future of the city.

“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.”

As a former journalist who’s written for the New Yorker, New York Times and the Smithsonian, Luckerson moved to Tulsa in 2019 to immerse himself in the community. Birthed out of a desire to provide more than just a historical accounting, Built From the Fire takes readers from the growth of Black Wall Street to the Tulsa Race Massacre up to the present day.

“By the end of Luckerson’s outstanding book, the idea of building something new from the ashes of what has been destroyed becomes comprehensible, even hopeful.”

The New York Times review of ‘Built From the Fire’

Across a series of five events over the next year, the Deep Greenwood Community Read will examine the 118-year history of Greenwood step by step, with each event capturing a different era.

All Souls Church kicks off Deep Greenwood Community Read series

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. 

The kick-off event of the series will be held at All Souls Unitarian Church on Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Luckerson will be in conversation with Bryan Hembree, a Tulsa native and the director of arts and culture at the University of Arkansas’ Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education.

The two will draw parallels between Tulsa’s racial climate before the massacre and the racial violence in Elaine, Arkansas, where hundreds of Black residents were killed by a white mob during the “Red Summer” of 1919. The event will also touch on the echoes of that tumultuous era in today’s political climate as the recent racist massacre in Jacksonville, Fla. reverberates across the country.

Tulsa poet Written Quincy will recite some of his works as part of the programming, and a reception will follow, sponsored by the All Souls D.I.V.E. (Diversity, Inclusion, Vulnerability, and Engagement) Team.

“Amidst the present efforts to downplay and stifle the truths of our shared history, both on a local and national scale, it is heartening to witness courageous individuals, like Victor Luckerson, raising their voices to recount narratives that have been and continue to be suppressed,” All Souls minister Randy Lewis said. 

“Built From the Fire” receives rave reviews

From September 2023 to May 2024, each event in the series focuses on a specific segment of the book, guiding the community through the journey.

The New York Times called the book “absorbing,” while the Washington Post praised it as an exceptional and thoroughly researched account of a “multifaceted community that refuses to be silenced.” Attendees will be encouraged to read select chapters from the book ahead of each event and bring questions for the author to the talks. Copies can be purchased at Fulton Street Books or Magic City Books, or checked out from the Tulsa City-County Library. The book will also be on sale at each event. 

“As a Tulsa transplant, the more I learn about the community of Greenwood, the more I am astounded by the rich history and legacy of it and the people who called it home,” said Larissa McNeil, the African-American Resource Center coordinator for Tulsa City-County Library.  “Greenwood was more than the massacre that decimated it and I’m excited for the community and even for myself to learn more about both the history and the future of Greenwood in a way that feels intentional and optimistic.”

With a focus on the perspectives of race massacre survivors and descendants, Luckerson’s book brings to life more than 100 North Tulsa residents from the past and present. It also draws on thousands of primary-source documents from Luckerson’s five years of archival research.

“A large part of the OSU-Tulsa Library’s mission is to develop and foster engagement through impactful, community-wide reads. The 5-part Deep Greenwood series dives deep into the Greenwood history, allowing for participants to be able to explore the tragic events of the race massacre, the district’s rich culture, changes and challenges in development, the resilience of Greenwood residents, and the collective hopes for the future of the community. We invite the entire Tulsa community to come along with us on each part of the journey.”

“An opportunity to forge a positive future together” with Deep Greenwood series

In addition to spearheading the Deep Greenwood community read series, Luckerson will serve as Writer in Residence at the University of Tulsa during the 2023-2024 academic year. There he will work with students in the history department and law school, while conducting new research into the early years of racial integration at the University of Tulsa. 

The Deep Greenwood series is being sponsored by the University of Tulsa’s Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, the OSU-Tulsa Library, and the Tulsa City-County Library. Additional sponsors include All Souls Unitarian Church, the Historic Big 10 Ballroom, Fulton Street Books, Magic City Books, the Black Wall Street Times, the Oklahoma Eagle and the North Tulsa Unity Book Club. Series sponsors offered a variety of insights on the cross-city collaboration.

“All Souls is honored to be a part of this public conversation about the past and future of Greenwood,” said Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls. “We hope that people in every district of Tulsa and of every background will see this dialogue as an opportunity to forge a positive future together.”

The full schedule for the Deep Greenwood series is below:

The Origins of Racial Violence, in Tulsa and Beyond

The Tulsa Race Massacre didn’t happen in a vacuum–it was seeded by the racial hatred within local government and media, as well as the white vigilantism condoned by law enforcement. This conversation will explore the politics of Tulsa before the race massacre, and the echoes of those politics we see in our national issues today.

Chapters: 1-8

Date: September 28, 2023 at 6:30 p.m. at All Souls Unitarian Church

Deep Greenwood Reawakened: Live at the Historic Big 10 Ballroom

A look back at what day-to-day life (and raucous nightlife) was like in Greenwood in its second heyday–the music, the entrepreneurship, and the day to day rhythms that many people alive today still remember.  A book talk including older Greenwood natives will be followed by a live show at the Big 10, featuring a setlist of songs that were played at the venue in the 1950’s. 

Chapters: 9-15

Date: November 11, 2023 at 4 p.m. at Historic Big 10 Ballroom

The Lingering Legacies of Urban Renewal

Victor will discuss the personal and policy impacts of urban renewal, juxtaposing visuals from government sources (redlining and urban renewal maps) with archival recollections of how Greenwood residents experienced those tumultuous years. 

Chapters: 16-20

Date: February 1, 2024 at 7 p.m. at OSU-Tulsa Auditorium

A People’s History of Protest in Tulsa

A look at the long legacy of activism in Greenwood and Tulsa as a whole, from protests against mob violence in the 1910s to the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War in the 1960s to the George Floyd protests in 2020. This event will be paired with a photo exhibit sponsored by the University of Tulsa highlighting Tulsa activism across generations. 

Chapters: 21-24

Date: April 11, 2024 at 7 p.m. at Oklahoma Center for the Humanities (101 E. Archer)

Imaginings: The Future of Greenwood

Victor will lead a panel discussion with community leaders and residents about what they hope is next for Greenwood. Instead of focusing squarely on policy, the group will discuss their visions for how the neighborhood may be transformed if ambitious efforts like removing I-244 come to pass. Readers and attendees will be able to submit their ideas for a future Greenwood and have them highlighted at the event. 

Chapters: 25 – Epilogue

Date: May 30, 2024, at 6 p.m. at Rudisill Regional Library

To learn more about the Deep Greenwood series, visit the University of Tulsa website. To follow along with the reading calendar, click here. The University of Tulsa has also provided a recommended reading guide.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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