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The Unspeakable Story
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper is the true and accurate retelling of the most destructive and devastating…well, massacre is the only fitting word for it…in American history. Sparked by a white woman alleging an assault by a Black teenage boy in an elevator, the entire town of Greenwood, Oklahoma was destroyed by white mob overnight.
I appreciate that this book was very factual. They did not shy away from the real story, nor did they attempt to gloss over any of it or make the ending “pretty” to make it palatable. The whole story is horrific, traumatic, and sad. Overnight, the entire town known by the moniker of “Black Wall Street,” was reduced to rubble and ash. This mob was provided weapons by the police officers in town (again, this book truly did not shy away from the facts).
This is not to say this book should be avoided. In fact, it should be read and discussed by everyone.
Racism is Just Ugly
That’s it. It’s ugly. There is no avoiding how racism has shaped our country from the beginning, and this moment in history needs to be discussed, especially since it was so recent.
We have to face our country’s history of systemic racism in order to fix it. Think of it like this: if you get a wound and it is filled with dirt, you can’t just cover it up and pretend it doesn’t exist. The wound will fester and become infected, the infection will spread, and you can go into massive organ failure. The only way to actually heal is to go in and clean out that wound, otherwise it will keep coming back no matter how many antibiotics you throw at it.
The Tulsa Race Massacre did not just erupt randomly. It was the culmination of systemic violence within the culture.
This has been one of my favorite books so far to discuss with my kids, especially my oldest. Our conversations related to this book have lasted far beyond just the main discussion we have after each book. The main focus has been on the effects of racism – how the belief that one people group is somehow “better” than another simply because of differences leads to this level of violence to maintain the perceived power dynamic. We talked about how our family rules of “kindness, dignity, and respect,” help guide healthy relationships and dynamics between people. When every person is treated with kindness, every person is treated with the dignity due them as a human, and differences are respected rather than “ranked,” the world is more peaceful and loving.
My oldest also was able to connect this story with other stories of people treated badly because of segregation, like Jackie Robinson and Georgia Gilmore.
The recommended level is ages 8-12, and my soon-to-be-8-year-old was very engaged. My youngest (almost 5) listened and understood the overall concepts of the story, but was not yet able to participate much in the discussion of the themes and concepts. Note: I did reword a few phrases and pause to explain some definitions to make it easier for my youngest to understand and follow along.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden)
Hidden Figures: Brave Women in STEM Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margo Lee Shetterly is a great kids' version of the 2016 hit movie Hidden Figures. My kids really don't appreciate movies that aren't Marvel or comedy yet, so...
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Harriet Tubman)
The Many Roles Of Harriet Tubman Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome was a favorite book for my kids from the library because it's a Wonderbook, which has a "read to you" option. This book not only included the story, but background assistance telling the...
United States v Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Jackie Robinson)
Jackie Robinson Refused To Get Up For A White Man Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man on a bus, Jackie Robinson refused to give up his seat - and he was called before a court martial trial for it. United States v Jackie...