Several documentary filmmakers — some backed by NBA superstars — are shedding light on the historically ignored Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, one of the most horrific tragedies in American history.
LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are among those releasing documentaries based on the racially motivated massacre. The projects come during the 100th anniversary of the massacre in Greenwood, a Black-owned business district and residential neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Each documentary uniquely takes a deep dive into how the thriving Greenwood community — dubbed Black Wall Street because of the number of Black-owned businesses — was decimated in a two-day attack by a white mob. In the aftermath, at least 300 Black people were killed. More than a thousand homes were burned and others looted, leaving roughly 10,000 residents displaced and homeless and the Black business district destroyed.
“This has to do with African Americans systematically being run off their land with assets and property being destroyed,” said Stanley Nelson, who co-directed “Tulsa Burning: 1921 Race Massacre” with Marco Williams. Westbrook — who formerly played with the Oklahoma City Thunder — is an executive producer of the documentary airing Sunday on the History channel.
National Geographic, CNN and PBS will also debut documentaries. Another documentary, “Black Wall Street” is being distributed by Cineflix Productions, but no network has yet picked it up.
Nelson said all of the projects are much needed and important, especially with the commemoration of the massacre coming near the one-year anniversary of last year’s racial reckoning sparked by the death of George Floyd.
A former Minneapolis police officer has since been convicted of murdering Floyd.
“I think the more the (Greenwood) story can be brought to light, the better,” said Nelson, an Emmy winner. “I’m sure that every film will be totally different. I think there’s a special timing here.”
Director Salima Koroma said the story should be told more than once. She pitched her Tulsa massacre documentary to some networks nearly five years ago, but drew no interest because she believes the “gatekeepers” weren’t ready to welcome the story.
Eventually, Koroma’s project found a home with James and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company. She believes the Los Angeles Lakers superstar and Carter’s association played a major role in pushing the project forward.