Photo credits: The Bettmann Archive via Getty Images
Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood Massacre was the most brutal race-related domestic terrorist attack in American history.
National Geographic is marking the 100th anniversary of this 20th-century tragedy with a new documentary, which sheds light on the horrors that decimated an entire economically self-contained Black community.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nat Geo’s upcoming film, titled Red Summer, will be directed by Dawn Porter. Previously, Porter produced a John Lewis documentary called Good Trouble. The Red Summer film project is set to air in June 2021.
The film follows Washington Post journalist and native Oklahoman DeNeen Brown. Brown has reported on the search for mass graves in Tulsa. The writer opens a largely unknown chapter of history called “Red Summer,” which is a period between 1917 and 1923. During those years, Black communities were terrorized and the Ku Klux Klan had become powerful.
The anti-Black Jim Crow discrimination laws bolstered and normalized systemic and institutional racism.
“This story has been a century in the making, but it took DeNeen’s powerful call to action for the city of Tulsa and the wider American community to fully realize the necessity of unearthing the truth about this massacre,” Porter said in an official statement.
“As a filmmaker, following the evidence where it leads and giving a voice to those directly affected by the Red Summer’s tragic events is an incredibly delicate undertaking,” Porter says.
“There is so much our society is currently reckoning with, but seeking the truth about the damage wrought by unchecked and unsanctioned mob violence against the Black community, is a starting point to acknowledge these wrongs and make room for healing to take place,” Porter’s statement also reads.
The Tulsa riot began May 31, 1921, in the city’s Greenwood District.
This part of Tulsa was home to a crop of wealthy and prosperous Black businesses and homes known popularly as “Black Wall Street.” Greenwood was totally destroyed after hordes of angry White mobs called for the lynching of 19-year-old Dick Rowland–after he was wrongly accused of assaulting a White female elevator attendant named Sarah Page.
Soon afterward, huge crowds of angry Whites were waiting anxiously for the chance to kill any Black person on sight. They set out to destroy not only a Black community but a symbol of Black prosperity, which defied the social expectations of the time of most White people at that time.
During two days of extreme and unrelenting violence, the Greenwood District was burned to the ground. The White-on-Black massacre left more than 10,000 Black people homeless and countless other Blacks out of work. Despite being outnumbered by Whites ten to one, on June 1, 1921, the National Guard was called in to disarm the crowds of Blacks.
Several witnesses reportedly saw aerial bombs being dropped by the National Guard on sections of Greenwood.
In order to get a more historically-accurate death toll in this area of Tulsa where the massacre occurred, there have been two excavations conducted in the past 12 months. The Associated Press still says, to this day, that approximately 300 people were killed (BET, 2021).
View the official trailer for director Dawn Porter’s Red Summer below.
Reference: Editors, BET.com. (2021, February 11) National Geographic Set To Air Documentary On The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Retrieved from https://www.bet.com/news/national/2021/02/10/national-geographic-race-massacre.html
*BlackThen.com writer/historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.