Summary and book reviews of The Ground Breaking by Scott Ellsworth

The Ground Breaking

An American City and Its Search for Justice

by Scott Ellsworth

The Ground Breaking by  Scott Ellsworth X
The Ground Breaking by  Scott Ellsworth
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2021, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Scott C. Martin
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

More than one-thousand homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors' offices, a hospital, a public library, a post office. Looted, burned, and bombed from the air.

Over the course of less than twenty-four hours in the spring of 1921, Tulsa's infamous "Black Wall Street" was wiped off the map—and erased from the history books. Official records were disappeared, researchers were threatened, and the worst single incident of racial violence in American history was kept hidden for more than fifty years. But there were some secrets that would not die.

A riveting and essential new book, The Ground Breaking not only tells the long-suppressed story of the notorious Tulsa Race Massacre. It also unearths the lost history of how the massacre was covered up, and of the courageous individuals who fought to keep the story alive. Most importantly, it recounts the ongoing archaeological saga and the search for the unmarked graves of the victims of the massacre, and of the fight to win restitution for the survivors and their families.

Both a forgotten chronicle from the nation's past, and a story ripped from today's headlines, The Ground Breaking is a page-turning reflection on how we, as Americans, must wrestle with the parts of our history that have been buried for far too long.

Chapter 1

1921

Close your eyes and you can almost hear them.

It's a Thursday afternoon on a long-ago spring day. In the alleys and on the back porches it is still jacket weather. For even though the dogwoods and redbuds are in bloom, and bursts of sparrows explode out of the trees and bushes, in the shadows there's a lingering coolness in the air. Only they don't care. For today is the maids' day off and they've congregated, in twos and threes and fours, to stop and gossip along the sidewalks and storefronts. Gone are their uniforms, the long white aprons and striped dresses and peaked caps. Gone are the mops and the dust rags, the yes ma'ams and the no sirs, and the lye soap, starch, and bluing. In their place are smiles and laughter, felt hats and bobbed hair. Today is a day to exhale.

They aren't the only ones out and about. Up and down Greenwood Avenue, a small parade of humanity can be seen. There are ditchdiggers and shop owners, a mother with young children, an old man-born a ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Overall, this is an engaging and well-researched work about the long-term impact of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Given that much of the primary information disappeared over the years, it is remarkable how much Ellsworth found. The subject matter can be difficult to study, especially for those who grew up in and have a deep association with Tulsa, like the author, but it is important to learn and remember what happened not only over those two days in 1921, but in the years afterward.

Media Reviews

New York Times
[C]andid and self-aware...Part of what makes this book so riveting is Ellsworth’s skillful narration, his impeccable sense for when to reveal a piece of information and when to hold something back...The Ground Breaking makes for sobering reading; but it also sheds light, and some of it is hopeful.

The Guardian
Indispensable…impeccable… Scott Ellsworth has produced a much-needed book that acts like a mirror. Though documenting a particular place and time, it helps us understand the race-based and sectarian turmoil that is so pervasive today…Fast-paced but nuanced, it’s an impeccably researched update of [his] literary debut.

Oprah Daily
Ellsworth, whose previous book on the massacre, published in 1982, was entitled Death In A Promised Land, with his latest masterful work of history, illuminates the hard, never-finished work of unlearning racism and nurturing truth. He also prompts us to question how many other American stories and voices remain buried, waiting for dedicated historians with Ellsworth's persistence and passion to uncover them.

Washington Post
Scott Ellsworth’s The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice offers a moving and humane portrait of the massacre...Ellsworth makes clear that he is deeply committed to exposing the details of the massacre and its aftermath. He refuses to shy away from the history — no matter how uncomfortable.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The author delivers a brilliant update that recounts the events [of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921] with the swiftness of an especially grim crime thriller...An essential historical record surrounding heinous events that have yet to be answered with racial justice.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[R]iveting...Interviews with survivors and reflections on the debate over reparations and the social, economic, and racial divisions of modern-day Tulsa add depth to Ellsworth's portrait of a community attempting to heal from an unimaginable injustice. This eloquent, deeply moving history isn't to be missed.

Library Journal (starred review)
A thoughtful exploration of the importance of collective memory. It is particularly poignant as 2021 marks the centennial of the massacre. A must-read for all who are interested in how history continues to impact the present.

Author Blurb Gilbert King, Pulitzer prizewinning author of Devil in the Grove
Immensely readable and thoroughly engaging, The Ground Breaking is a remarkable blend of history and memoir that could not be more timely and informative. Taut, tense, and meticulously composed, Scott Ellsworth's elegant narrative is both mesmerizing and enlightening.

Author Blurb Kenneth W. Mack, Professor of Law, Harvard University
This is a book that fuses history and memory with the unresolved search for justice for the victims of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. It is also a searing story of Ellsworth's personal journey as he struggles to unearth and come to terms with these events, and the journey of a community as it moves through forgetting, denial, and finally some grudging acceptance of what happened. The horrific events of 1921 have been called a riot, a disaster, a pogrom, and finally a race massacre. Ellsworth shows how each renaming is a direct result of the persistent efforts of those who would dig up what had been carefully and deliberately hidden. This book should be essential reading for anyone interested in an honest grappling with our racial past and with the task of moving forward.

Author Blurb Beto O'Rourke
The persistence, empathy and painstaking research of The Ground Breaking move us much closer to the justice that the victims of Greenwood, and the people of America, deserve. Heartbreaking and inspiring.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Ground Breaking, try these:

  • White Too Long jacket

    White Too Long

    by Robert P. Jones

    Published 2021

    About this book

    Drawing on history, public opinion surveys, and personal experience, Robert P. Jones delivers a provocative examination of the unholy relationship between American Christianity and white supremacy, and issues an urgent call for white Christians to reckon with this legacy for the sake of themselves and the nation.

  • Buses Are a Comin' jacket

    Buses Are a Comin'

    by Charles Person, Richard Rooker

    Published 2021

    About this book

    A firsthand exploration of the cost of boarding the bus of change to move America forward - written by one of the Civil Rights Movement's pioneers.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Girl in His Shadow
    The Girl in His Shadow
    by Audrey Blake
    The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake is a fast-paced historical novel set in Victorian-era England...
  • Book Jacket: Whereabouts
    Whereabouts
    by Jhumpa Lahiri
    Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts has seen numerous comparisons to Second Place by Rachel Cusk. These two ...
  • Book Jacket: Swimming Back to Trout River
    Swimming Back to Trout River
    by Linda Rui Feng
    Linda Rui Feng's first novel, Swimming Back to Trout River, is a powerful meditation on the ties ...
  • Book Jacket: The Unfit Heiress
    The Unfit Heiress
    by Audrey Farley
    During the American eugenics movement (see Beyond the Book), involuntary sterilization was used to ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Ariadne
by Jennifer Saint
A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Morningside Heights
    by Joshua Henkin

    A tender and big-hearted novel about love in the face of loss, from the award-winning author of The World Without You.

Who Said...

We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like?

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

H I T Best P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.