Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall StreetIn the spring of 1921, hundreds of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black residents were murdered in a race massacre that was forgotten for 100 years.
Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street is a two-part series. Part 1 is coming to The Passionate Eye on Friday, October 29 at 9 p.m. Part 2 will be available on CBC Gem.
The Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was once known as Black Wall Street.
In the early 1900s, it was a centre of Black wealth and a cultural hub for the city’s African American residents.
But that all changed on May 31, 1921.
Dick Rowland, a Black man, was accused of assaulting a white elevator operator in a local department store. Rowland denied the accusations.
As news of the alleged assault spread, white residents assembled and tempers flared. A group of Black residents, including WWI veterans, gathered at the Tulsa Country Courthouse to stop Rowland’s lynching.
As the conflict grew, so did the white mob — some of whom were “deputized” by local authorities.
The vigilantes descended upon Greenwood, setting fire to buildings and shooting Black residents. Some accounts claim that at the height of the massacre, airplanes dropped incendiary devices designed to start fires into Black residential areas.
Businesses, schools, churches and hospitals burned. More than 35 city blocks were razed. Scores of Black residents took shelter with the American Red Cross for weeks; many permanently fled the city.
Up to 300 Black men, women and children were murdered. Thousands were left homeless.
It was one of America’s most shocking mass murders — and many people, including lifelong residents of Tulsa, are just learning about it today.
As present-day Tulsa seeks reconciliation and accountability for this century-old tragedy, Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street blends archival media, animation, narrated letters, diary entries and contemporary interviews with an original score. The documentary also follows the present-day archeological search for mass graves.
- Related: As Tulsa digs for victims of the 1921 race massacre, victims say the road to justice is a long one.
Directed and produced by Salima Koroma, the two-part series celebrates the Black cultural renaissance that existed in the Greenwood district of Tulsa before May 1921, and investigates the 100-year-old race massacre that left an indelible stain on American history.