About the National Archives

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Good afternoon. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased to welcome you to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. Whether you are here in the theater or watching on YouTube, we’re glad you could join us for today’s discussion of David Grann’s new book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

Before we get started, I want to tell you about two other programs coming up here in the McGowan Theater.

Tomorrow at 7 p.m., we continue our celebration of President John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday with a concert by the Air Force Strings. This acclaimed ensemble will play musical selections that were performed in the Kennedy White House.

On Tuesday, June 20, at noon, Douglas Egerton will be here to talk about his newest book, Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments that Redeemed America, which chronicles the formation and battlefield triumphs of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry and the 5th Cavalry.

To learn more about these and all of our public programs and exhibits, consult our monthly Calendar of Events in print or online at Archives.gov. There are copies in the lobby—along with a sign-up sheet so you can receive it by regular mail or email. You’ll also find brochures about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann has unearthed a story of murder, corruption, and injustice. It’s probably safe to say that most of us had not heard of the mysterious deaths of Osage men and women in the 1920s.

But stories once forgotten can gain new life when someone seeks out the historical record and put the pieces together.

In reviewing Killers of the Flower Moon in the Washington Post, Scott Berg wrote, “He’s canny about the stories he chases, he’s willing to go anywhere to chase them, and he’s a maestro in his ability to parcel out information at just the right clip.”

Tom Drury, writing for Slate, remarked that “Grann’s singular skill is to find a story that, while not unknown, is not known enough, and to dig so deeply and precisely into the historical record that what he finds not only amplifies and builds upon that record but arrives with the force of revelation. . . . What makes Killers of the Flower Moon so compulsively readable is Grann’s ability to draw characters from the pages of history and give them the aura of living, breathing humans.”

And Dave Eggers says in the New York Times, “Grann has proved himself a master of spinning delicious, many-layered mysteries that also happen to be true.”

Every day, people make discoveries in the National Archives and in archives and collections around the globe, and we who work in this world of records encourage the curious to seek out the stories behind the stories.  And I am so proud that this story was made possible by access to records here at the National Archives.

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David Grann is a New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. His first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, became a #1 New York Times bestseller, was chosen as one of the best books of 2009 by multiple news outlets, and has also been adapted into a major motion picture.

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, Grann’s collection of stories, and was named by Men’s Journal one of the best true crime books ever written. His stories have also appeared in The Best American Crime Writing; The Best American Sports Writing; and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He has previously written for the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

Introducing David today is a special pleasure.  David was the 2013-2014 David Ferriero Fellow at the Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars at the New York Public Library.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome David Grann.