The Riot that Burned the Dreamland Down

Greenwood, after the burning. Photo from

I’ve had my head down for a while now, finishing DREAMLAND BURNING and getting it ready for its debut next January. Honestly, the details of what happened in Tulsa back in 1921 have gotten so ingrained in my brain that I forget not everyone knows about them. Rather than go into the history here, I’ll just say that between May 31, 1921 and June 1, 1921, white Tulsans rioted, burning the Greenwood section of this town to the ground. Greenwood was also known as “Black Wall Street.” It was one of the wealthiest African American neighborhoods in the country. No one knows exactly how many people were killed in the riot, but our best estimates put it somewhere in the hundreds. Most of the victims were black.

The Tulsa World has created a great online resource about the riot. So has the Tulsa Historical Society. I used both in my research.

Unlike the fictional characters in DREAMLAND BURNING–Will, Ruby, and Joseph in 1921, Rowan and James today–the Tulsa race riot was real. So is the fact that violence is still being done to people in our country because their skin isn’t white. I wrote DREAMLAND because it’s important to learn about forgotten parts of our country’s past, and because we need to pay attention to the racial violence going on around us now. We need to acknowledge it. Talk about it. Fix it. Together. And we cannot, cannot forget.