If you purchase Fires of Greenwood: Tulsa Riot of 1921, you will get to know some of the most successful, adorable and heroic African Americans in this country’s history. You will stand in the beautiful ballroom at the Stradford Hotel, with its luxurious chandeliers hanging from the ceilings and the shining hardwood floors welcoming you to step inside. While in the hotel you will meet the owner, John B. Stradford, the richest Black businessman in the most prosperous business community within the United States. If one luxurious hotel is not enough for you, cross over Greenwood Avenue and you can enter the Gurley Hotel, not quite as extravagant as the Stradford, but nice enough for Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois to lodge there when he visited the city in the spring of 1921.
You will be deeply immersed in the community when you walk into the Little Rose Beauty Shop and Mabel Little, one of the most revered and respected Black women in the city, greets you. You’ll feel as though you are a part of the conversation between the ladies getting their hair done and those waiting for their turn in one of the four chairs. The conversation gets quite interesting and not much different from what is discussed in beauty shops today.
Further down Greenwood Avenue, you will be invited into the offices of The Tulsa Star, owned by the fiery Andrew Smitherman. You will hear a heated debate between those supporters of Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist approach to dealing with segregation and Dr. Du Bois’ more aggressive protest approach. The discussion centers around whether the leaders should invite Dr. Du Bois to the city to deliver a lecture. The pro Du Bois forces win out but in the end of the novel you can decide if that was a good decision for the community.
Nearing the corner of Greenwood and Archer, you will duck your head inside the Dreamland Theater and join the other seven hundred moviegoers enjoying an Oscar Micheaux movie. You will also sit in the audience the night Dr. Du Bois delivers one of his riveting challenges to Black Americans to take up arms and fight back against the racists who refused to allow them equality in their own country.
Then, on May 31, you will stand with the veterans of World War I, whose leader is the brave O. B. Mann, when they pledge to fight to the death before they allow the racists to lynch Ms. Damie’s baby boy for a crime he did not commit. You will march with them across the Frisco Railroad Tracks and confront the mob demanding that the sheriff turn Dick Rowland over to them. And you will rejoice with those brave Black men, who fight a battle that they ultimately will lose, but a war they did win. They confronted evil and were victorious, and that makes them our heroes.