Synopses & Reviews
The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot was the country's bloodiest civil disturbance of the century. Leaving perhaps 150 dead, 30 city blocks burned to the ground, and more than a thousand families homeless, the riot represented an unprecedented breakdown of the rule of law. It reduced the prosperous black community of Greenwood, Oklahoma, to rubble.
In Reconstructing the Dreamland, Alfred Brophy draws on his own extensive research into contemporary accounts and court documents to chronicle this devastating riot, showing how and why the rule of law quickly eroded. Brophy offers a gut-wrenching portrait of mob violence and racism run amok, both on the night of the riot and the morning after, when a coordinated sunrise attack, accompanied by airplanes, stormed through Greenwood, torching and looting the community. Equally important, he shows how the city government and police not only permitted the looting, shootings, and burning of Greenwood, but actively participated in it. The police department, fearing that Greenwood was erupting into a "negro uprising" (which Brophy shows was not the case), deputized white citizens haphazardly, gave out guns and badges with little background check, or sent men to hardware stores to arm themselves. Likewise, the Tulsa-based units of the National Guard acted unconstitutionally, arresting every black resident they could find, leaving Greenwood property vulnerable to the white mob, special deputies, and police that followed behind and burned it.
Brophy's revelations and stark narrative of the events of 1921 bring to life an incidence of racial violence that until recently lay mostly forgotten. Reconstructing the Dreamland concludes with a discussion of reparations for victims of the riot. That case has implications for other reparations movements, including reparations for slavery.
"Recovers a largely forgotten history of black activism in one of the grimmest periods of race relations, emphasizing the black militancy of the World War I era and how assertive black demands for racial equality threatened white Tulsans. Linking history with advocacy, Brophy also offers a reasoned defense of reparations for the riot's victims."--Washington Post Book World
"Meticulously researched...., A good job of showing how the true history of the riot was whitewashed, and how difficult it has been for white Tulsa--and white America for that matter--to acknowledge its racist past."--San Diego Union Tribune
"Brophy's history of reparations is fascinating."--St. Louis Post Dispatch
"At once meticulously factual and riveting, Alfred Brophy's moving account of a 1921 race riot that destroyed an economically self-reliant, vibrant African-American community clarifies why political action and enforcement of legal and human rights are indispensable perquisites for black economic opportunity and material progress. Brophy also clarifies why Americans need to find the courage to acknowledge injustices of the recent past and contrive amends to help heal still-unresolved consequences scarring both victims and perpetrators."--Jane Jacobs
"In his timely, well documented and powerfully written book, Reconstructing the Dreamland, Professor Al Brophy vividly illustrates a chapter of America's sordid racist past by focusing on the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. If we are to transcend the barriers to racial progress, we all must read Brophy's compelling work and use it as a seminal case in our path to avoid conflicts at all costs. Simply put, Professor Brophy's book is the best-written account of the Tulsa riots, and captures the people of Tulsa's resolve to never allow a similar travesty to occur again. Every person interested in racial justice should have this book at his or her disposal." --Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Jesse Climenko Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
The 1921 Tulsa Race Riot was the country's bloodiest civil disturbance of the century. Thirty city blocks were burned to the ground, perhaps 150 died, and the prosperous black community of Greenwood, Oklahoma, was turned to rubble.
Brophy draws on his own extensive research into contemporary accounts and court documents to chronicle this devastating riot, showing how and why the rule of law quickly eroded. Brophy shines his lights on mob violence and racism run amok, both on the night of the riot and the following morning. Equally important, he shows how the city government and police not only permitted looting, shootings, and the burning of Greenwood, but actively participated in it by deputizing white citizens haphazardly, giving out guns and badges, or sending men to arm themselves. Likewise, the National Guard acted unconstitutionally, arresting every black resident they found, leaving property vulnerable to the white mob.
Brophy's stark narrative concludes with a discussion of reparations for victims of the riot through lawsuits and legislative action. That case has implications for other reparations movements, including reparations for slavery.
"Recovers a largely forgotten history of black activism in one of the grimmest periods of race relations.... Linking history with advocacy, Brophy also offers a reasoned defense of reparations for the riot's victims."--Washington Post Book World
About the Author
Alfred L. Brophy
is Reef C. Ivey II Professor Law at the University of North Carolina. He is the author of Reparations: Pro and Con
and Book Reviews Editor of Law and History Review
. He contributed to the report to the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, a body created by the Oklahoma Legislature to investigate the riot and make recommendations for reparations. Brophy has appeared on CNN's News Night with Aaron Brown, NBC Nightly News, NPR's "Fresh Air," the "Tavis Smiley Show," and "Talk of the Nation," and has been quoted in such newspapers as the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times
, and Washington Post
Table of Contents
Foreword by Randall Kennedy
1. Seeking Justice and the Origins of the Riot
2. "Thinking He Can Whip The World": The Riot
3. Picturing the Riot
4. "A White Wash Brush and a Big One in Operation in Tulsa": Tulsa Interprets the Riot
5. Tulsa Will! Tulsa Will? Tulsa Will Dodge: The Failure of Reconstruction