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  • Martel Sharpe

History Channel Greenlights Russell Westbrook's Documentary on the Tulsa Race Massacre



The History Channel recently decided to pick up a new documentary from Peabody and Emmy-Award winner Stanley Nelson and Peabody and duPont-Award winner Marco Williams.



Referred to for now as Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, the documentary is also a product of NBA superstar Russell Westbrook, Donnell Beverly (president of Russell Westbrook Enterprises), Blackfin (an eOne company) and Firelight Films.


This was announced last year, in June, after the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre. The History Channel plans to release the documentary this spring to commemorate the massacre's 100th anniversary.


“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," said Eli Lehrer, executive vice president and head of programming for The History Channel. "I am honored to partner with Russell, Stanley, and Marco to tell this harrowing story with an authenticity and dignity only they can bring.”


Directed by Nelson (Freedom Riders) and Williams (Two Towns of Jasper) and executive produced by Westbrook, the two-hour documentary Tulsa Burning covers the events of the massacre, which took place in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which at the time was considered to the wealthiest Black community in the United States; earning it the nickname "Black Wall Street."


"The Tulsa Race Massacre was not something I was taught about in school or in any of my history books,” Westbrook said. “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.”



The documentary covers the beginning of Black Wall Street all the way to the massacre, and then the days after and reconstruction using rare archival footage and interviews from historians, which include the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, and the Historic Vernon AME Church.


Nelson added, “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.”


“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.”


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 legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, encouraging young people nationwide to pursue avenues of innovation and entrepreneurship.

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