When I saw April’s video on TikTok all about the story I knew I was going to have to pick it up. Angel Of Greenwood is set in what was once known as Black Wallstreet in a section of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This area was the first known prosperous community for Black Americans. In this community, every thing was owned and run by Black individuals and this was creating a foundation for them to be able to live and strive on. Everything was going very well for them until May 31, 1921 – a day of a vicious attack on the community by a white mob.
Growing up I knew very little about the Tulsa massacre of 1921. This was just not something that was discussed or analyzed. So when I finally learned about it, I was shocked and honestly disgusted by the actions of that white mob. The attack was obviously intentional and the purpose was to bring down this group of Black Americans who had somehow found a way to grow in a society that wanted to push them down. Given that my knowledge on what actually occurred is still relatively fuzzy, I was excited to see a YA book that was focused around this tragic event.
Angel of Greenwood starts 12 days before the massacre which allow the reader to get a sense of this town and characters. This story is told in the duel perspectives of Angel and Isaiah. On the surface, these characters are complete opposites: Isaiah is seen as a town trouble maker and Angel is seen as a goody goody. When they are teamed up to help with the mobile library, they develop a bit of a kinship which slowly evolves into more.
Isaiah and Angel have different philosophies on the way the Black community should continue to grow. Isaiah is a strong follower of W.E.B. DuBois and his claim that Black people should rise up to claim their place as equals. Meanwhile Angel prefers to be a loyal follower of Booker T. Washington and believes in the power of education and tolerance to help Blacks arise without conflict. These two character have such great conversations about these individuals and their teachings. Through these conversations, the reader learns about the layers of these characters and watch them grow. And the romance that blossoms between them is so sweet.
The first half of Angel of Greenwood sets the stage for the community so when the date reaches May 31st, you are devastated with what is happening. I thought that this was just so well written and informative regarding the events of that tragic night. It is also a good representation of the “white washing” of history because if it wasn’t for stories like this, people in society would likely never learn about the Tulsa Massacre. Or if they did it wouldn’t be to the same level of detail or emotion. It does not feel overdone at all and I think paints a very realistic picture of what happened. With the time spent on getting to know these characters and community, the end result becomes even more devastating.
Angel of Greenwood is technically a YA historical fiction but, I really feel like this book can reach across all audiences. It is informative but not only violent when describing the events of that tragic night. You still feel all the emotions as a reader from the sense of community, the budding relationship between Isaiah and Angel and then the overall events of the massacre. There is also a note at the end from author Randi Pink as to more information about the massacre and the reason she chose to tell this story. Trust me, you do not want to miss this one.
Rating: 4 Stars