"The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice"

May 20, 2021

We're pleased to speak once again with the University of Michigan-based historian and bestselling author, Scott Ellsworth, whose books include "The Secret Game," "The World Beneath Their Feet," and "Death in a Promised Land," the last-named being his account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, a pioneering text which first appeared in the 1980s. Originally from Tulsa, Ellsworth has just published an all-important follow-up to "Death in a Promised Land," which he tells us about. "The Ground Breaking" -- appearing just in time for the 100th anniversary of the tragedy -- reveals the story of how the massacre was covered up, and thereby details how official records were "lost," various pieces of evidence disappeared, researchers were threatened, and the worst incident of racial violence in American history was kept hidden for fifty-plus years. But Ellsworth also profiles the courageous individuals who fought to keep this history alive, remembered, and present. Importantly, "The Ground Breaking" also recounts the archaeological, socio-political, and civic efforts to locate the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre; moreover, it documents the ongoing fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families. Per a starred review of this work in Publishers Weekly: "Historian Ellsworth delivers a riveting investigation into the origins and aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.... Interviews with survivors and reflections on the debate over reparations and the social, economic, and racial divisions of modern-day Tulsa add depth to [this] portrait of a community attempting to heal from an unimaginable injustice. This eloquent, deeply moving history isn't to be missed."