Liberty Adams, born in slavery, lived a life of factual brutality yet astonishing resourcefulness: from slave plantation to work as a stable hand, to a soldier’s life training men to read and write, to the last battle of the Civil War, the cattle drives of Texas, and finally, to a prosperous but perilous existence in the anticipated all-black state of Oklahoma.
In 1921, at the age of seventy-three, Liberty, an accomplished editor, attempts to retire from newspaper life amid one of the nation’s most vibrant black communities, the Greenwood district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, dubbed ‘Black Wall Street’.
On the cusp of one of the most tragic race riots in American history, this hostile city is radically divided and boiling to a perilous tipping point. Liberty, in an attempt to guide his community, decides against his better judgment to write his recollections, plumbing the depths of his diverse and shocking personal history.
In the years following the Civil War ignorance meets aspiration time and time again in a large, adventurous life propelled by a love for words and the freedom they bring. Liberty Adams cultivates the life of the mind, the soil of his soul, and the peace of his community.
Traveling back to that dim period of time where, like a blanket, illiteracy cloaked our minds, suffocated our wills, and chained every ounce of cognitive ambition, it is nearly impossible to describe the squalor of ignorance that then prevailed. It is easy to imagine the physical poverty, slaves subsisted like animals. But it is rather difficult to comprehend the destitute poverty of mind. The indigent ignorance so pervasive that it had long been accepted as fate by most whites and, in complicity, even some blacks. (I do not judge; complicity was more compelling than death) ... the labor of one’s hands, not one’s mind, was the only exertion permissible in the land of forbidden learning.