This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre: one of America’s most infamous cases of racial violence. Between May 31st and June 1st of 1921, Tulsa’s predominately black Greenwood district was subjected to attacks from armed white civilians, leaving the once-prosperous community in ruins.
Historians estimate hundreds to have lost their lives, though no official death count has ever been reached and new mass graves are still being discovered. Thousands more were left homeless, and dozens of city blocks were destroyed in the aftermath of the siege. A state commission report from 2001 found that the mob caused an estimated $1.8 million in property damage–around $27 million by today’s standards.
As we arrive upon the centennial anniversary, MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee aims to highlight how the emotional, civil and economic effects of the attack persist to this day. His digital documentary entitled Blood on Black Wall Street features archival footage from the attacks, as well as interviews with community leaders, activists and the descendants of those who survived. When asked to describe the film’s mission, Lee issued the following remarks in an interview with People Magazine.
“There are a lot of people who have never heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre, so it’s a valuable history lesson, but I also think we can use Tulsa as an example to better understand where we are now in terms of race relations and the racial wealth gap in America. Mainly, though, this is a story about resilience. It’s a story about a community who, despite these horrific acts, is still standing.”
The film’s release comes as U.S. President Joe Biden is set to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend to meet with residents in commemoration of the event. The President’s trip and the documentary as a whole are part of a broader effort to push the massacre into the public eye, as it has been largely absent from American history these past one hundred years. Last week, the last-known living survivors testified on Capitol Hill, in hopes of acquiring reparations for survivors and their families. Viola Fletcher is the massacre’s oldest living survivor. At 107 years old, she made her feelings quite clear in an address to the congressional committee.
” I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.”
Blood on Black Wall Street is currently available for streaming on NBCNews.com and NBC News NOW. The documentary will air on television this Sunday at 2 PM EST on CNBC, and 10 PM EST on MSNBC. The film will also be available beginning Sunday, on NBC’s streaming service Peacock.