May 31 marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, that left hundreds of Black people in the area known as Greenwood (aka Black Wall Street) dead at the hands of white mobs.
On May 31, 1921, a Black man was imprisoned following claims that he assaulted a white woman, according to the Library of Congress. Angry white residents descended on Greenwood, shooting African Americans and burning homes and businesses. By the next morning, the Greenwood District was destroyed and the virtually all-white Tulsa Police Department was complicit.
The Tulsa Race Massacre led to as many as 300 deaths, the displacement of thousands of Black residents, and millions of dollars in property damage in one of the worst instances of racial violence in U.S. history.
“Jim Crow, jealousy, white supremacy, and land lust, all played roles leading up to the destruction and loss of life,” according to the Tulsa Historical Society.
Up until recently, this devastating chapter in Black history received little attention. Now 100 years later, it is getting the attention of the world in a series of public events and television documentaries. Below are details on several films marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre
Premieres Sunday, May 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on History
Executive produced by NBA star Russell Westbrook and directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson and Peabody Award winner Marco Williams, the documentary takes a sobering look at the tragic events of a century ago and focuses on a specific period, from the birth of Black Wall Street — to its catastrophic fall over the course of two bloody days, and finally the fallout and reconstruction. The film also follows the city’s current-day grave excavation efforts at Oaklawn Cemetery where numerous unmarked coffins of victims who were killed and buried during the massacre have been recovered. It will feature rare archival footage and imagery from the time, coupled with commentary and interviews from numerous historians, city leaders, and activists, including the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission and the Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church, among others. More details on the film can be found here.
Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten
Premieres Monday, May 31 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS
The new documentary examines the deadly assault on the 100th anniversary of the crime in the context of other racial massacres and police killings. Washington Post reporter DeNeen L. Brown interviews descendants of Greenwood residents and business owners and today’s community activists. She asks them about the city’s 2018 decision to search for mass graves from 1921, community demands for reparations and today’s efforts to revive the Black district of Greenwood through education, technology, business development and more. The documentary also explores issues of atonement, reconciliation and reparation in the past, present and future through the historical lens of white violence and Black resistance. The documentary includes interviews with civil rights activists, lawyers and Black community leaders including Greg Robinson II, Kristi Williams and Regina Goodwin, Oklahoma State Representative – Tulsa House District 73. In addition, Eric Stover, founder of the Human Rights Center at University of California, Berkeley School of Law, who has investigated numerous acts of genocide and mass murder over many decades, speaks with Tulsa natives and surveys the current excavation and search for mass graves. More details on the film can be found here.
OWN Spotlight: The Legacy of Black Wall Street
Premieres Tuesday, June 1 (9 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET/PT) – Part 1 on OWN
Continues Tuesday, June 8 (9 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET/PT) – Part 2 on OWN
The two-part special tracks the rise of Black Wall Street up until the tragic 1921 Tulsa race massacre that destroyed the 36-block booming business epicenter. The commemorative documentary special shifts the narrative from the massacre itself to amplify the voices of those Black pioneers then who went West to build their American dream, weaving their stories with the inspiring modern-day Black pioneers now who continue the path to healing and rebuilding the rise of the Black community who presently occupy Greenwood. History is told through the lives of five individuals who were there in the early 1900s: Loula Williams, Augusta Stradford, Dr. Andrew C Jackson, Drusilla Dunjee Houston and A.J. Smitherman. Interlocked with the words, stories and images of these early pioneers are the words and stories of the descendants and present-day activists of the Greenwood era: Venita Cooper, Jerica Wortham, Charity Marcus, Dr. Jabraan Pasha, and Raven Majia Williams, who each embody the entrepreneurial spirits of their ancestors. The series produced by Trailblazer Studios. Executive producers include Ashleigh Di Tonto and Jeff Lanter. Deborah Riley Draper serves as director and producer. More details can be found here.
Blood on Black Wall Street: The Legacy of the Tulsa Massacre
Now Streaming on NBCNews.com
MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee hosts the digital documentary Blood on Black Wall Street: The Legacy of the Tulsa Massacre examining how the violence inflicted on a once thriving economic hub has impacted generations of Black Tulsans. Lee speaks with descendants still struggling financially and emotionally, while pushing the city to recognize the role it played. The documentary began streaming Friday, May 28 on NBCNews.com and NBC News NOW, and will also be available Sunday, May 30 on Peacock on demand. More information can be found here.