The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by Tim Madigan

Publication Date: February 1, 2003

 

The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by Tim Madigan takes place in 1921. On June 1, 1921, an estimated 10,000 white citizens of Tulsa, Oklahoma, destroyed the black Greenwood neighborhood known at the time as America’s Black Wall Street. The actual number of casualties is unknown, but the cruelty and indiscriminate horror of the attack lived in the minds of the survivors, who lived in a community whose only crime was a success.

I will never know what it is like to be Black in America. In history, it has always seemed like being one of Henry VIIIs’ wives. He would put up with them as long as they were pretty and docile without opinion, and if they in any way displeased or bored him, they might lose their head. That, it seems, is a trivialization and I am sorry for making that comparison. It seems in history and now, there is burning hate and dangerous unrest in the white community. This work shook this reader. The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 should be required reading in every high-school history curriculum. I write this review with horror knowing there was no real recrimination for this vile event where the true number of casualties will never be known. Tim Madigan postulates the secrecy may be due to the fear of being very appropriately charged with murder. The least that can be done is for this horrible event to never again be an open secret. For it to be taught and treated with the same abhorrence of the awful, tragic and cruel events in history.

Madigan tells us that people that moved the area soon after, were surprised to hear of the event at the time he was writing the book. 

Madigan paints an alarming picture in The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 by just reporting the facts. So how did it start? A black male shoeshine operator fell into a white elevator operator when the elevator made a sudden move. She called for help and he was jailed. Word started going around Tulsa that a lynch mob was gathering. When word reached Greenwood, seventy-five black men gathered arms and made their way to the jail in order to protect the accused. The Sheriff convinced the men that no one would reach the accused and when they started to leave. One of the white men that had gathered tried to disarm one of the black men and shots were fired, leaving several men, mostly white, dead. 

What followed seems to have been more organized than perhaps a group of men could have come up with on the spur of the moment. At first, the black community was holding its own, but a large group of people that entered buildings and killed those they found, wholly destroyed the community. Shots rang from the sky, from airplanes flying overhead, and while the author doesn’t make a definitive judgment, he certainly points out that the men seemed to be receiving instruction from someone.  

The stories that Madigan relates are disturbing. Honestly, everyone should read this book. The attackers were no discriminators of people. They killed children and just anyone they met not their color. White men died too but approximately 75 percent of the casualties were from the Greenwood community. In the aftermath, a commission was put together to examine the events on that day, and in recent years reparations were ordered for the community. Madigan is a reporter and relates events in a very factual manner, but the nature of the event is just devastating. Madigan does pose in his narrative that this was Jim Crow America. In 1921, the most popular Halloween costume was to dress up as a Klan member. They were respected and revered and so wrong. We know where the hate comes from, but the cruelty is just not something I can comprehend.

I am aware that this is less a review and more a reaction piece. The work flowed well. The author is a professional writer. I think his attention to detail speaks in the impact on the reader of the piece. Madigan reached out to the victims in his research as well as those in Tulsa at the time (really, the perpetrators have kept their involvement a close secret for years). I don’t think there could be a more complete work covering this horrible event.

Pick this book up today. I don’t know about you, but I am going to work against hate in my community. For those of us who live internationally, please do not see this as an American problem. We all have hate in our communities and we can all work for change.

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For more information about Tim Madigan and his work, visit his website. You can connect with her on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter @tsmadigan.

The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark Shaw

Publication Date: December 6, 2016

 

On November 8, 1965, 52-year-old investigative reporter and television personality, Dorothy Kilgallen, is found dead of an apparent overdose in her New York City home. Her files are missing and the air conditioning is running. She has been investigating the Kennedy assassination and has told people she is poised to crack it wide open. Was she the reporter who knew too much?

 

Before he started investigating the Jack Ruby trial, Mark Shaw remembered Dorothy Kilgallen as a panelist on the syndicated CBS game show, “What’s my Line.” Digging into the records, Kilgallen’s name kept coming up and her interest and dedication to cracking the case sparked Shaw’s interest in the enigmatic and talented reporter and her mysterious death. Research for The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen took Shaw 12 years and justice for Kilgallen has become his calling. Continue reading The Reporter Who Knew Too Much: The Mysterious Death of What’s My Line TV Star and Media Icon Dorothy Kilgallen by Mark Shaw

The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant

Published on October 23, 2018

 

On January 26, 2020, sports legend Kobe Bryant and his oldest daughter, Gianna (13) died in a helicopter crash on the way to Gianna’s basketball game. Click here to read the Variety article. When Kobe retired he wrote The Mamba Mentality about his strategic view of the game and how it should be played combined with a score of intimate pictures of Kobe in the game. On this tragic day, The Mamba Mentality: How I Play is a look at one of the great minds of the game.

Continue reading The Mamba Mentality: How I Play by Kobe Bryant

Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i by David E. Stannard

Publication Date: May 2, 2006

 

Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i by David E. Stannard takes place in 1931. Thalia Massie stumbled from the brush into a car when she accused six Hawaiian men of gang-raping her. When the accused went to trial and walked away due to a hung jury, Thalia’s mother and husband kidnapped and killed one of the subjects launching a highly contested trial. If aristocratic white folk exacting a revenge killing in a racially charged environment wasn’t enough to attract the attention of the world, Clarence Darrow for the defense in what would be in the last case, was certainly a draw.

Continue reading Honor Killing: How the Infamous Massie Affair Transformed Hawai’i by David E. Stannard

Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

Publication Date: October 22, 2009

 

Brooke Astor lived a rich and adventurous life. In Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon, her twilight years should have been comfortable and uneventful. Instead, as Alzheimer descended, the Centenarian was living under the guardianship of her son, Anthony Marshall, and living in squalor. Her worried grandson approached her dear friends, Annette de la Renta and David Rockefeller for advice and what transpired in the aftermath of that meeting was more than any of them could have imagined. 

Continue reading Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

Publication Date: May 27, 2014

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon is a biography. Huguette Clark, born near the beginning of the twentieth century, was the daughter of the nation’s second richest man and grew up in luxury. She was a lively and social philanthropist who relatives one day realized, had become gradually more distant until she virtually disappeared. What happened to this once vibrant personality?

 

The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is an infuriating read. It is a dispassionate account of the life of Huguette Clark, and what happened to her once she went into isolation. The biography was written by the journalist, Meryl Gordon. What is infuriating about the book is the connection that Gordon builds between her subject and the reader and then the revelation that she was basically a tool for gain in her later years outlined in an objective fashion that could not make clearer the motivations of the century-old woman’s carers. Continue reading The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon

To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

Publication Date: March 6, 2012

To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild is a look at the often ignored World War I moral objectors along with those people who wholeheartedly believed in the cause.

Is it the job of the historian to moralize and pontificate? History is propaganda written by the winners, so to read a book highlighting the moral objectors is supremely interesting. To sermonize that an event already placed in history shouldn’t have happened is not appealing. People died in World War I. It happened. It’s done. It’s 100 years in the past. History is about facts and while “woulda” “shoulda” and “coulda” are nice to suggest that a war in which an estimated 37 million people (civilian and military) died was a waste of human life. Maybe. But it happened and isn’t it a disservice to chide key figures in history-making portraying them as Keystone Cop archetypes. Despite my distaste at the author’s position, the story of the objectors is one that should be told and was presented with delicacy, mindful of the challenges they faced. Continue reading To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

Publication Date: January 5, 2016

In Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham, it’s 1954 and Juliet Hulme and her friend, Pauline Parker, killed Pauline’s mother. The crime, committed by two teenage girls who lived rich fantasy lives and simply did not want to be separated when Juliet would be sent to South Africa, rocked Auckland, New Zealand. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century chronicles the crime, trial and Peter Jackson film that led to the hunting down of the two long released convicts.

It seems a widely known fact that English author, Anne Perry, was born as Juliet Hulme and spent five years in prison after she and Pauline Parker were convicted of killing Pauline’s mother. Given the first name when released from prison and returning to England, she took her stepfather’s last name. A secret for many years, the release of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures brought the crime back to the public eye and interest in tracking down the now elderly teen killers. Continue reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham

Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter

Publication Date: March 1, 2018

In Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter, Belle Gunness was a serial killer who operated between 1884 and 1908. She killed at least 14 people (including her own adopted daughter) but possibly as many as 40. Detected in 1908, she apparently died in a house fire with her remaining three adopted children, and though a man went to trial for the arson and murder, not everyone was convinced.

Let me say right from the start, Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Not a generally well-known serial killer today, Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-American who operated out of La Porte, Indiana. Her victims appear to have been exclusively her fellow Norwegian immigrants. She’d advertised in the Norwegian papers located in Chicago for a handyman and then would operate a love scam quite a lot like we see today online. Continue reading Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter

A Spy for the Union: The Life and Execution of Timothy Webster by Corey Recko

Publication Date: September 6, 2013

A Spy for the Union: The Life and Execution of Timothy Webster by Corey Recko A Spy for the Union by Corey Recko is the story of the New York Police Officer turned Pinkerton Detective turned spy for the Union forces, Timothy Webster. As a Pinkerton, he was a member of a team that uncovered a plot in 1861 to kill then President, Abraham Lincoln. As a Union spy he made valuable high-level Confederate connections before betrayal led to his execution. Continue reading A Spy for the Union: The Life and Execution of Timothy Webster by Corey Recko