• The Ground Breaking

  • An American City and Its Search for Justice
  • By: Scott Ellsworth
  • Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo
  • Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (31 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

Carnegie Medal, 2022

National Book Award, 2021

One of The New York Times' “11 New Books We Recommend This Week” | One of Oprah Daily's “20 of the Best Books to Pick Up This May” | One of The Oklahoman's 15 Books to Help You Learn About the Tulsa Race Massacre as the 100-Year Anniversary Approaches” | A The Week book of the week

As seen in documentaries on the History Channel, CNN, and Lebron James’s SpringHill Productions

And then they were gone.

More than 1,000 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 24 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 50 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 important, 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 pause-resister reflection on how we, as Americans, must wrestle with the parts of our history that have been buried for far too long.

©2021 Scott Ellsworth (P)2021 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

Carnegie Medal, 2022

National Book Award, 2021

“A moving and humane portrait of the massacre...The Ground Breaking sends a powerful message at this 100th anniversary: that reconciliation is possible only when we directly confront the truth of a painful past and take concrete steps to redress it.” (The Washington Post

The Ground Breaking documents Ellsworth’s dogged pursuit to excavate the details of what occurred on those days 100 years ago, since facts about what transpired were intentionally suppressed for decades.... By weaving in his personal history and conversations with Tulsa survivors and other natives, Ellsworth combines his gift for storytelling with an historian's dogged persistence to not only track the latest information on the existence and locations of those mass graves, but to offer essential insights as to why the Tulsa Race Massacres are emblematic of why American racial inequality persists and how we need to reckon with it so we can begin to seek true reconciliation.... 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.” (OprahDaily.com)  

“A skillful narrative of excavating the truth about the Tulsa race massacre...candid 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 New York Times)  

What listeners say about The Ground Breaking

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent book on the Tulsa Massacre

The told the story from the earliest days till the graves were found. I learned so much and was heart broken at the terrible injustice that was thrust upon the Blacks. I had lived in Oklahoma for about three years in the 60’s and saw the racial divide. I saw the blatant discrimination.
The only comment I have was why wasn’t a male voice used since the author was male.
Highly recommended.

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A thoughtful and challenging listen

Scott Ellsworth chronicled the history of the Black Wall Street Massacre (BWSM) in a way that can be digested by the listener/reader although the subject matter is by turns: heartbreaking, challenging, insightful, complex, and necessary for a lucid understanding of the BWSM. The book is a must read for those of us who did not actually live through the BWSM.

Mr. Ellsworth is a historian who has made a concerted effort to tell the story objectively by furnishing the listener/reader a factual account based on historical data and oral history. Adenrele Ojo has gifted the reader/listener with her usual stellar performance making difficult material less painful. In essence this book is truly a highly recommended and informative worthwhile listen.