The HISTORY Channel has greenlit the two-hour documentary Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre (working title), which will be executive produced by NBA star and philanthropist Russell Westbrook.
The documentary will take an in-depth look at the events of a century ago and how the impact is still being felt today. It will focus on the birth of Black Wall Street and its catastrophic downfall over the course of two bloody days, as well as the fallout and reconstruction. It will incorporate rare archival footage and imagery from the time while weaving in present-day stories and interviews from historians. Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre is slated to air this spring on The HISTORY Channel, timed to coincide with the tragedy’s 100th anniversary.
Directed by Nelson (Freedom Riders) and Marco Williams (Two Towns of Jasper), Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre is produced for The HISTORY Channel by Blackfin (an eOne Company) and Firelight Films.
The HISTORY Channel will also join the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation, Endeavor, RedFlight Innovation and Values Partnerships to create an educational and experiential campaign focused on the history and legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street. It will provide historical context while encouraging young people nationwide to pursue avenues of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Westbrook said: “The Tulsa Race Massacre was not something I was taught about in school or in any of my history books. It was only after spending 11 years in Oklahoma that I learned of this deeply troubling and heartbreaking event. This is one of many overlooked stories of African Americans in this country that deserves to be told. These are the stories we must honor and amplify so we can learn from the past and create a better future.”
Nelson said: “The horrific story of the burning of Black Wall Street has long haunted me. While I was able to touch on the Tulsa Race Massacre in a short segment in an earlier film, I knew this story needed a much deeper treatment. I’m grateful to be working on this film with such wonderful partners—Marco Williams with whom I have collaborated with on Tell Them We Are Rising, Russell Westbrook, Blackfin and The HISTORY Channel. Together we are aiming to restore Tulsa, Oklahoma and the fateful events surrounding the 1921 massacre of its Black residents to their rightful place in American history.”
Eli Lehrer, executive VP and head of programming for The HISTORY Channel, said: “The HISTORY Channel is committed to educating our audience about the past, its impact on the present and its role in shaping the future. Nearly 100 years later, the emotions from the Tulsa Race Massacre are still embedded in the fabric of our society and this poignant piece of our history is sadly relevant now more than ever, as racially charged events unfold before us during our present history. I am honored to partner with Russell, Stanley and Marco to tell this harrowing story with an authenticity and dignity only they can bring.”