LeBron James, CNN Films to produce documentary on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre

LeBron James is hoping to shed some light on a tragedy that has been largely absent from American history books.

James’s SpringHill Company is collaborating with CNN Films to create a documentary that examines the history of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, according to news release.

Dubbed “DREAMLAND: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street,” the film will look at the history of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood district — better known as “Black Wall Street” — and the devastating history of the race massacre that followed.

“We cannot move forward until we acknowledge our past and this is about honoring a prosperous, booming Black community, one of many, that was brought to an end because of hate,” Jamal Henderson, SpringHill’s chief content officer and one of the executive producers of the documentary, said in the news release.

“With the lack of historic journalism around ‘Black Wall Street’ and the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, we are honored to be partnered with CNN, which has a long-standing record of credible and groundbreaking journalism,” he continued.

The film, which is currently in production, will also provide viewers with “a mix of archival media, contemporary interviews, and narrated elements such as letters and diary entries,” according to the release. That is in addition to “footage of the near-century search for physical evidence of the mass murder that some had tried to erase from the historic record.”

James will serve as one of the executive producers of the film, along with Salima Koroma who will be the director.

“CNN Films could not be more proud to partner with The SpringHill Company for this long-overdue recognition of the tragedy of what happened in Greenwood, and to contribute to the reconciliation that comes with the acknowledgment of history,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide in a news release. “Salima Koroma’s vision will yield a truly thoughtful film.”

A bloody history

Before the 1921 race massacre, Black Wall Street was home to doctors, physicians, lawyers, bankers and 300 Black-owned businesses, including two theaters. There was even a pilot that owned his own private airplane.

But all of that changed when Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black man, was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old White woman named Sarah Page in the elevator of a Tulsa building. Although Page never pressed charges against Rowland, authorities did.

The incident escalated tensions between the White and Black communities of Tulsa, and by May 31, 1921, an angry mob swept through the Greenwood district burning and looting businesses, according to Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.

The violence ended after 24 hours with 35 city blocks burned to the ground and more than 1,200 houses destroyed.

Although initial reports of deaths began at 36, historians now believe that as many as 300 people were killed, according to Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.

Renewed interest in the 1921 Tulsa race massacre

“DREAMLAND: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street” is not the only example of a motion picture that has tried to put a spotlight on the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.

In 2019, HBO’s Watchmen reenacted the massacre in the first episode of the series.

Other events have also brought attention to Tulsa’s bloody history.

Earlier this year, President Trump received backlash for planning a campaign rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth — the day marking the end of slavery in the United States. The news of the rally also came at a time when there were nationwide protests against the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

And most recently, a lawsuit was filed against the city of Tulsa demanding reparations for damages it says continued after the destruction of Black Wall Street. A 105-year-old survivor of the 1921 race massacre is the lead figure in that lawsuit.

Other plaintiffs include the descendants of Greenwood victims, the Tulsa African Ancestral Society, the Vernon A.M.E Church — the only Black-owned building to survive the massacre.

“DREAMLAND: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street” is expected to be finished by 2021, according to the release.

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