LeBron James is Producing a Documentary About the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

If you watched HBO’s Watchmen series, you were possibly surprised to learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre that unfolded in the Oklahoma neighborhood of Greenwood, known at the time as the “Black Wall Street.” Somehow, one of the biggest incidents of racial violence in the history of America was used to kick off the events of a comic book sequel TV series, but it wasn’t featured in most history books in school. Because of the lack of awareness of this tragic event, LeBron James and his SpringHill Entertainment production banner are teaming with writer/director Salima Koroma to make a documentary about it.

For those of you who didn’t watch HBO’s Watchmen and still don’t know much about the Tulsa Race Massacre, the violent event unfolded from May 31 through June 1 with mobs of white citizens attacking the black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Attacks were carried out on the streets and even from private airplanes flown over the 35-square block area that was then the wealthiest Black community in the United States.

Here’s how The History Channel explains the events leading up to the massacre:

On May 30, 1921, a young Black teenager named Dick Rowland entered an elevator at the Drexel Building, an office building on South Main Street. At some point after that, the young white elevator operator, Sarah Page, screamed; Rowland fled the scene. The police were called, and the next morning they arrested Rowland.

By that time, rumors of what supposedly happened on that elevator had circulated through the city’s white community. A front-page story in the Tulsa Tribune that afternoon reported that police had arrested Rowland for sexually assaulting Page.

As evening fell, an angry white mob was gathering outside the courthouse, demanding the sheriff hand over Rowland. Sheriff Willard McCullough refused, and his men barricaded the top floor to protect the Black teenager.

Around 9 p.m., a group of about 25 armed Black men—including many World War I veterans—went to the courthouse to offer help guarding Rowland. After the sheriff turned them away, some of the white mob tried unsuccessfully to break into the National Guard armory nearby.

With rumors still flying of a possible lynching, a group of around 75 armed Black men returned to the courthouse shortly after 10 pm, where they were met by some 1,500 white men, some of whom also carried weapons.

During the confrontation, shots were fired, chaos broke out, and the resulting violence led to many deaths, though the real number of casualties has been debated over the years. You can get a more detailed breakdown of the timeline of the massacre at Wikipedia, but waiting to see this documentary about the event may offer a clearer picture.

Salima Koroma posted this on Twitter (via USA Today) to announce the new documentary:

We knew we had to empower her to tell that story ?? #BlackLivesMatter #Dreamland @KingJames https://t.co/Ns0d3mDFoj

— thespringhillco (@TheSpringHillCo) June 1, 2020

LeBron James and his producing partner Maverick Carter at SpringHill Entertainment have been spreading important messages and telling powerful stories about the Black experience. Not only have they produced films about the experience of Black athletes in the spotlight with documentary productions such as Shut Up and Dribble and What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali, but they’ve also produced the Netflix drama series Self Made: Inspired by the life of Madam C.J. Walker, which tells the story of the first African-American self-made millionaire, played by Octavia Spencer.

It sounds like this Tulsa Race Massacre documentary is in the nascent stages of development, but we’ll be sure to update you when more information becomes available. In the meantime, here’s some more perspective on the event, courtesy of a featurette from HBO’s Watchmen:

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