Unspeakable and the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre

By Megan Ciskowski, Assistant Publicist

For almost seventy-five years the history behind the Tulsa Race Massacre was undocumented and omitted. Now with the 100th anniversary approaching on May 31st and June 1st, it’s crucial we take time to remember the victims and share their stories with readers of all ages.

The picture book Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre traces the history of African Americans in Tulsa’s Greenwood district and chronicles the devastation that occurred in 1921 when a white mob attacked the Black community. Celebrated author Carole Boston Weatherford and acclaimed illustrator Floyd Cooper provide a sensitive and powerful introduction to one of the worst incidents of racial violence in our nation’s history.

Continue reading to find numerous resources and articles associated with Unspeakable that you can use to begin discussing the anniversary with your readers. Visit the Unspeakable page on the Lerner website for more information.

Watch the Book Trailer to Hear from the Author and Illustrator

Teaching Guide

The Unspeakable teaching guide was developed by Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, educator, author, co-founder of the Institute for Racial Equity in Literacy, and director of diversity and equity at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. In this guide, Dr. Cherry-Paul helps educators prepare for reading Unspeakable and having conversations about race and racism; explore the book’s themes of resistance, resilience, and reconciliation; and make connections across history into the present.

In addition, take a look at this article from The Classroom Bookshelf featuring several ways Unspeakable and Tulsa Race Massacre can be incorporated into curriculum.

Spread from Unspeakable describing Greenwood Avenue.

Take a Deeper Dive into the Backstory of Unspeakable

On October 15th Carole Boston Weatherford presented at the SLJ Day of Dialogue. Read the Q&A session from that event!

Before it all began, associate publisher Carol Hinz and art director Danielle Carnito took a trip to Tulsa, OK to learn more about the city’s history. Learn how this trip shaped the book in this post.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper speak with Betsy Bird in this interview with A Fuse #8 Production.

Floyd Cooper speaks about his connection to the story of Unspeakable in this cover reveal from The Brown Bookshelf.

Listen to Carole Boston Weatherford’s conversation with Matthew C. Winner on The Children’s Book Podcast!

Additional Resources for Classroom Research

The History Channel will be releasing a documentary called “Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre” on May 30th at 8/7c. This show has been executive produced by NBA superstar and philanthropist Russell Westbrook, and directed by Peabody and Emmy-Award® winning director Stanley Nelson. Find more information here.

To find documents, photos, and further research, visit the virtual exhibit from the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.

Some victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre were buried in unmarked graves. In 2018, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced the City of Tulsa would reexamine the potential of graves and grave sites. Follow this project on the City of Tulsa website.

Spread from Unspeakable in which Greenwood residence flee from the mob.

Praise for Unspeakable

★”Ideal for classroom libraries and a deeper study of American history, this title is a must-have for those seeking the painful and complete truth.”—starred, Booklist

★”Unspeakable deserves to be read by every student of American history.” —starred, BookPage

★”A somber, well-executed addition to the history as the incident approaches its 100th anniversary.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews

★”[S]ucceeds in teaching the tragedy of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the legacy of Black Wall Street.”—starred, Publishers Weekly

★”This moving account sheds light on shameful events long suppressed or ignored. All collections should consider this title’s value in providing historical context to current conversations about racism and America’s ongoing legacy of white supremacy.”—starred, School Library Journal

★”Far from romanticizing history, Weatherford is equally descriptive in explaining how a false accusation of assault brought simmering racial tensions to a violent end . . . Cooper’s illustrations (‘oil and erasure’) are the perfect partner to this history, the sepia-toned images resembling historical photographs. The portraits of Black residents are particularly moving, seeming to break the fourth wall to implore the reader to remember their story.”—starred, The Horn Book Magazine

For more Announcements, visit the Lerner Blog!

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