Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA alum returns to campus to discuss book about Tulsa massacre

CW / Caroline Simmons
Victor Luckerson posing with his book Built from the Fire at an event held in the Yellowhammer Room of Gorgas Library on Sep. 12.

Victor Luckerson, University of Alabama alumnus and former editor-in-chief of The Crimson White, visited campus Tuesday to discuss “Built From the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, America’s Black Wall Street,” a book that provides a multigenerational account of the history and aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. 

Tuesday night’s event was the first stop of an academic book tour.

Currently a freelance journalist for outlets such as The New York Times and Smithsonian Magazine, Luckerson says his initial interest in the Tulsa story was piqued in 2017 when he was discussing it with a friend from high school who knew nothing about the tragedy. 

“If my generation didn’t know anything about this, then it felt incumbent upon me to try to tell the story,” Luckerson said.

This realization ultimately led him to quit his job and move to Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Luckerson discussed how the prosperity and wealth of the Greenwood district, a predominantly Black community, fueled resentment within the white community that led to the massacre that killed hundreds of people. Luckerson said this massacre was “one of the worst acts of racial violence” in American history. 

“We still feel the echoes of that horror and trauma today,” Luckerson said. 

Luckerson spoke alongside George Daniels, an associate professor of journalism and creative media who was Luckerson’s Honors College mentor at the University. 

Daniels said he and Luckerson reconnected at an event where Luckerson gave a presentation on the Tulsa massacre. Daniels later flew to Tulsa in 2020 to see Luckerson’s progress on his research.

“The greatest accomplishment you can have as a faculty member is the success of your student,” Daniels said.

Luckerson and Daniels also discussed the process for gathering information for the book. Luckerson did a lot of traveling and said his trips, as opposed to making a phone call or sending an email, were essential in gaining the trust of those he spoke to. 

He also said that because he got started amid the COVID-19 pandemic, his project had gone “off the rails a little bit.” However, the racial and political events that occurred in 2020 helped him regain his focus. 

“This is what I’m here to do … write about this when it’s happening,” Luckerson said.

University professor Joshua Rothman organized the event and said he was impressed with its success. He said it was originally intended to be an event for the history department, but then many others reached out wanting to participate. 

“This event brought in lots of different programs and places in the University that Victor affiliated with when he was a student here,” Rothman said.

Luckerson’s talk reached a diverse audience, and many stayed afterward to ask questions and purchase his book. 

“The audience seemed really engaged and people stuck around, so I was thrilled with the turnout,” Rothman said.

Marta Vercruysse, a freshman majoring in political science and psychology, attended the event to learn more about Tulsa in the years after the tragedy since there’s usually not a lot of focus on what happens after events like the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Vercruysse was also interested in how the University handles social and racial issues on campus. 

“I really wanted to see how the University interacts with topics about race,” Vercruysse said.

Looking ahead, Luckerson hinted at the possibility of a film based on his book. But for now, Luckerson is focusing on spreading the story of the massacre to college campuses nationwide. 

“I’m really excited to go into a lot of other schools over the next several months talking about this book and the story,” Luckerson said.

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