Festival Saturday, February 17, 2024

Time: TBD

Victor Luckerson


When Ed Goodwin moved with his parents to Greenwood, Tulsa, his family joined a growing community on the cusp of becoming the center of Black life in the West. But, just a few years later, on May 31, 1921, the teenaged Ed hid in a bathtub as a white mob descended on his neighborhood. They laid waste to 35 blocks and murdering as many as 300 people. The Tulsa Race Massacre was one of the worst acts of racist violence in United States history.

The Goodwins and many of their neighbors soon rebuilt the district into “a Mecca,” in Ed’s words, where nightlife thrived, small businesses flourished, and an underworld economy lived comfortably alongside public storefronts. Ed grew into a prominent businessman and bought a community newspaper called the Oklahoma Eagle to chronicle its resurgence and battles against white bigotry. He and his genteel wife, Jeanne, raised an ambitious family, who became literal poster-children for black progress, and their son Jim, an attorney, embodied their hopes for the Civil Rights Movement. But, by the 1970s urban renewal policies had nearly emptied the neighborhood, even as Jim and his neighbors tried to hold onto pieces of Greenwood. Today, the newspaper remains, and Ed’s granddaughter Regina represents the neighborhood in the Oklahoma state legislature, working alongside a new generation of local activists.

In Built from the Fire, journalist Victor Luckerson moves beyond the mythology of Black Wall Street to tell the story of Greenwood, an aspirant black neighborhood that, like so many others, has long been buffeted by racist government policies. Luckerson provides an honest accounting of this potent national symbol of success and solidarity and weaves an epic tale about a neighborhood that refused, more than once, to be erased.


Victor Luckerson is a journalist and author based in Tulsa who works to bring neglected black history to light. His new book on the history of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, Built From the Fire, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. The Times called the book “absorbing” in its review, while the Washington Post praised it as an exceptional and thoroughly researched account of a “multifaceted community that refuses to be silenced.”

Victor is a former staff writer at The Ringer and business reporter for Time magazine. His writing and research have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Wired, and Smithsonian. He was nominated for a National Magazine Award for his reporting in Time on the 1923 Rosewood Massacre. He also manages an email newsletter about under explored aspects of black history called Run It Back.


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