TV Shines Light on 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre with Slate of Documentaries

Buildings on fire in Tulsa, Oklahoma during the 1921 Tulsa race massacre
(Image credit: Alvin C. Krupnick Co. via the Library of Congress)

TV networks will recognize the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre with several documentaries that reflect on one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history. 

Cable and broadcast networks such as CNN, History, National Geographic and PBS will debut over the next few weeks documentaries and specials that document the events surrounding the 1921 massacre, in which a white mob burned down a wealthy Black-owned stretch of businesses and homes in the Greenwood section of Tulsa. As many as 300 Black people were killed and more than 1,200 Black-owned homes and businesses were destroyed during the two-day massacre, which has  mostly been ignored by historians until recently. 

DeNeen Brown, Washington Post writer whose reporting is at the center of National Geographic’s Rise Again: Tulsa and Red Summer and PBS’ Fire and Forgotten documentaries, says the massacre’s depiction through such scripted series as HBO’s Lovecraft Country and Watchman has helped bring attention to the massacre. As more people become aware of the tragedy -- and as the country continues to discuss issues revolving around race and inequality in the wake of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death -- the more they want to know more about it. 

"I think the reason we’re seeing so much media interest around the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is that it is one of the worst incidents of racial terror violence committed against Black people in U.S. history," Brown said. "For nearly 100 years, the massacre was deliberately covered up, kept out of textbooks and erased from history. Historians told me that for almost a century, civic and city officials in Tulsa orchestrated a deliberate campaign of silence."

The documentaries have also attracted such celebrities as NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, who serve as executive producers of CNN’s Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street and History’s Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, respectively. 

Read Also: Programming Review: History's 'Tulsa Massacre' Spotlights a Forgotten Tragedy

Below is a partial list and premiere dates of documentary chronicling the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre:

May 30 -- Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre -- History 

May 31 -- Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street -- CNN

May 31 -- Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten -- PBS

June 1 -- The Legacy of Black Wall Street -- OWN

June 18 -- Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer -- National Geographic

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.