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Russell Westbrook's Tulsa Race Massacre documentary to air on the History Channel

Russell Westbrook's Tulsa Race Massacre documentary to air on the History Channel

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Oklahoma Hall of Fame (copy)

Russell Westbrook, former Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player, is executive producer of a documentary about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

A history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

A Russell Westbrook-backed documentary about the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa will air on the History Channel, it was announced Thursday.

“The Tulsa Race Massacre was not something I was taught about in school or in any of my history books” the former Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player said in a news release. “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 two-hour documentary (working title: “Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre”) is from Peabody and Emmy-Award winner Stanley Nelson, Peabody and duPont Award winner Marco Williams, Westbrook, Donnell Beverly (President of Russell Westbrook Enterprises), Blackfin (an eOne company) and Firelight Films.

Directed by Nelson (“Freedom Riders”) and Marco Williams (“Two Towns of Jasper”) and executive produced by Westbrook, the project is scheduled to air this spring in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.

The news release said 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 history and legacy of Tulsa’s Black Wall Sreet. The campaign will provide historical context while encouraging young people nationwide to pursue avenues of innovation and entrepreneurship. The initiative will communicate the importance of investing in Black communities, with an emphasis on youth and will connect the docuseries to the need for progress and development now.

The release said the documentary will take an in-depth, sobering look at the events of a century ago and how the impact is still being felt today. The documentary will focus on a specific period, from the birth of Black Wall Street to its catastrophic downfall over the course of two bloody days, and then the fallout and reconstruction.

Rare archival footage and imagery from the time will be weaved among present-day stories and interviews from historians and representatives from the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission and the Historic Vernon AME Church, among others.

“The horrific story of the burning of Black Wall Street has long haunted me,” Nelson said. “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. I’m grateful to be working on this film with such wonderful partners – Marco Williams with whom I have collaborated with on ‘Tell Them We Are Rising,’ Russell Westbrook, Blackfin and the History Channel. 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.”

Eli Lehrer, executive vice president and head of programming for the History Channel, said the channel is committed to educating its audience about the past, its impact on the present and its role in shaping the future.

“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. I am honored to partner with Russell, Stanley and Marco to tell this harrowing story with an authenticity and dignity only they can bring.”

Tulsa Race Massacre: This is what happened in Tulsa in 1921


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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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