Victor Luckerson signs copies of his book Feb. 28 in the Business Innovation Building. Luckerson's book, “Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street," was available for purchase at the end of his discussion. (Grace Roche/ B&W Staff)

Author discusses his book on Greenwood District


Victor Luckerson, an author and journalist, was welcomed by The Department of Journalism and Department of Africana Studies on Feb. 28 to talk to students and faculty about the history of his book “Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street.”

Armando Anzellini, professor of sociology and anthropology, facilitated the discussion with Luckerson.

During the discussion, Luckerson emphasized the importance of telling a rounded story of Black history. He said he wanted to show what life was like living in the area and tell the history of the race riots without focusing solely on the trauma of the event. 

The book, which was released in 2023, received accolades from The New York Times and The Washington Post and required extensive research on the district’s history. 

The book details the history of the Greenwood neighborhood, an affluent Black community that was commonly known as Black Wall Street. 

After a false rape allegation against Dick Rowland, a teenager in the district, a race massacre broke out in early summer of 1921. On June 1, an armed white mob destroyed 35 blocks in the Greenwood District. 

Luckerson also details how the community coped after the tragedy. 

“I wanted to fill in some of the gaps in Black history that I did not learn when I was in school,” Luckerson said. “Tulsa felt like a great lens to examine that, and also it’s really important for me to focus not only on the race massacre, but to expand the aperture of what makes Greenwood special, and so the book focuses on the building of the community, its destruction, but also its rebuilding.”

LaToya Council, a professor of sociology and anthropology, said she is currently researching Black womens’ experiences with racial trauma and was drawn by that aspect of Luckerson’s book. 

“I really like how he spoke about how communities deal, and the constant resistance, the constant trying to gain access to reparations and hold Oklahoma accountable,” Council said. “I find that courageous and something that we should celebrate.”

Luckerson and Anzellini invited questions from the audience, which delved deeper into aspects of the neighborhood’s city, while others were concerned with the present and future of Tulsa. 

One of the attendees, Ian Collins, ‘25, is a history major who read Luckerson’s book for one of his classes and appreciated the thoroughness of his history of Greenwood. 

“I think sometimes you just get the during or the immediate aftermath,” Collins said. “But he does a good job of talking up to the event, going through the event, and then finally the aftermath of the event.”

Luckerson said in the aftermath of the massacre, the city of Tulsa has done a lot of work to commemorate the 1921 tragedy. However, it has done little work fixing the damage in the community and the lives of survivors. 

He said there are still ongoing lawsuits against the city, which many in the Greenwood community hope will bring justice to the descendants of survivors. 

Lehigh is among over a dozen schools Luckerson has visited since releasing the book in 2023. He said it is important to tell Black stories during a time when that history is being erased from many high school curricula. 

“It’s been really heartening to go to schools across the country and talk to young people about Greenwood’s history and hear from even the folks who haven’t heard about it before,” Luckerson said. “I think they’re a little bit changed when they learn a little bit about what happened in Greenwood. Both for the good and for the bad.”

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1 Comment

  1. Robert Davenport on

    The story should have been told in history classes/books from the year it occurred. Corruption in governing is as old as written history and likely before that.

    Abuse of power and greediness’s are always popular to promote agendas.

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