May 17, 2023
Contact: Angela Spindle
Oklahoma Historical Society
Oklahoma Historical Society Plans Panel Discussion and Book Signing With Author Victor Luckerson
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Historical Society is proud to present a panel discussion and book signing with Victor Luckerson, author of “Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street” (2023). Luckerson will lead a discussion about the book and the importance of archiving in the telling and shaping of Black history. Joining him will be David Goodwin, principal/operations for The Oklahoma Eagle and descendant of the Goodwin family featured in the book; and Sydnee Monday, editor of Kokila Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. J.D. Baker, platform manager at Cortado Ventures and former special assistant to Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, will moderate the discussion.
The program will take place at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on Thursday, May 25, from 7-8:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Luckerson will be available after the discussion to sign copies of “Built from the Fire,” which will be sold for $30 on the night of the event. This event is free and open to the public, but we ask that you please register online as space is limited.
About the Book
“Built from the Fire” is a multigenerational saga of a family and a community in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street, that in one century survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, urban renewal and gentrification.
When Ed Goodwin moved with his parents to Greenwood, Tulsa, in 1914, his family joined a growing community on the cusp of becoming a national center of Black life. But, just seven years later, on May 31, 1921, the teenaged Ed hid in a bathtub as a white mob descended on his neighborhood, laying waste to 35 blocks and murdering as many as 300 people. The Tulsa Race Massacre was one of the most brutal acts of racist violence in US history, a ruthless attempt to smother a spark of Black independence.
But that was never the whole story of Greenwood. The Goodwins and their neighbors soon rebuilt it into “a Mecca,” in Ed’s words, where nightlife thrived, small businesses flourished and an underworld economy lived comfortably alongside public storefronts. Prosperity and poverty intermixed, and icons from W.E.B. Du Bois to Muhammad Ali ambled down Greenwood Avenue, alongside maids, doctors and every occupation in between. Ed grew into a prominent businessman and bought a newspaper called The Oklahoma Eagle to chronicle Greenwood’s resurgence and battles against white bigotry. He and his wife Jeanne raised an ambitious family, and their son Jim, an attorney, embodied their hopes for the Civil Rights Movement in his work. But by the 1970s, urban renewal policies had nearly emptied the neighborhood, even as Jim and his neighbors tried to hold on to it. Today, while new high-rises and encroaching gentrification risk wiping out Greenwood’s legacy for good, the family newspaper remains, and Ed’s granddaughter Regina represents the neighborhood in the Oklahoma 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 an aspirant Black neighborhood that, like so many others, has long been buffeted by racist government policies. Through the eyes of dozens of race massacre survivors and their descendants, Luckerson delivers an honest, moving portrait 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.
About the Author
Victor Luckerson is a journalist and author based in Tulsa who works to bring neglected Black history to light. He is a former staff writer at The Ringer and a 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 underexplored aspects of Black history called “Run It Back.”
This program is funded in part by Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily represent those of OH or NEH. The event is also sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.