A century on, PBS' new documentary examines one of the worst outbreaks of racial violence in American history.

By Jolie Lash
April 30, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Next month is the 100th anniversary of one of the worst outbursts of racial violence in American history: the Tulsa Race Massacre. PBS is marking the day with the premiere of the documentary Tulsa: the Fire and the Forgotten, and EW has a first look at the trailer below.

Premiering May 31, the 90-minute film looks back at the two-day rampage that saw Black businesses looted and burned by white rioters, and horrific violence perpetrated against Black residents of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Okla., also known as Black Wall Street.

Directed by Jonathan Silvers and reported by The Washington Post's DeNeen L.Brown, the doc not only focuses on the tragic events of 1921 but also explores racism and racial injustice in America in the years since, and examines issues of atonement and reparation.  

"The reason that we embarked on this film is to expose not only a buried truth, both literally and figuratively — figuratively in the suppression of the history of the massacre and the injustice done, not merely to the victims and survivors, but to the generations that followed — and the literal search for the victims, the mass graves possibly linked to the massacre in several locations that have since been discovered," Silvers told reporters earlier this year at the virtual Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Michel Martin, an Emmy-winning journalist, narrates the film.

For many TV viewers, their first exposure to the Tulsa massacre was when it was depicted on HBO's Emmy-winning series Watchmen in 2019. Series creator Damon Lindelof wore a "Remember Tulsa '21" T-shirt at the virtual awards ceremony, and gave a memorable and impassioned speech dedicated to the victims and survivors of the incident.

"History is mystery," he said. "It is broken into a million puzzle pieces, and many are missing. We know where those pieces are, but we don't seek them out because we know finding them will hurt. Sometimes we cause that hurt. Maybe we even benefited from it. But we have to name it before we can repair it."

Lindelof added, "The fires that destroyed Black Wall Street still burn today. The only way to put them out is if we all fight them together."

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