Memorial Day and the subsequent Tuesday in the United States this year also marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a tragedy that was already receiving renewed attention in recent years and so now it seems there are several twin TV and streaming documentaries being released on the subject. There's this one, "Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten," from PBS; a two-parter "The Legacy of Black Wall Street" from Oprah Winfrey's TV channel and also on Discovery+; even two separate ones produced by rival basketballers amidst the NBA playoffs, Russell Westbrook assisting the so-called History Channel to take a break from chasing Bigfoot and investigating ancient alien astronauts or whatever nonsense occupies much of their schedule these days to make "Tulsa Burning: the 1921 Race Massacre" and LeBron James teaming up with CNN for "Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street," the latter of which will be coming to HBO MAX at some point; and National Geographic's upcoming "Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer" is premiering the weekend of Juneteenth and will also be on Hulu. If you watch only one of these, I wouldn't recommend this PBS version. The other two I've seen, the CNN and History Channel ones, are better, and arguably none of them beat watching HBO's "Watchmen" (2019) series in combination with reading the Wikipedia article on the massacre, which, let's be honest, is how many of us learned about it.
Most of us didn't learn about it at school, that's for sure. Both the PBS and CNN docs begin by mentioning how the Tulsa massacre was intentionally erased from the history books, but they say this as though it's an isolated Oklahoma problem. History lessons in primary and secondary education throughout most of the U. S. and the rest of the world is assuredly atrocious. I know it was for me. Anyways, one may read more on how poorly we're being taught in popular texts such as "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong," or read real history books and academic articles--not textbooks. Even universities aren't necessarily much better. I studied movies at college with a focus on film history, and I don't recall mentioned once in class Oscar Micheaux, an early African-American filmmaker who depicted racial violence and valorized the opportunities of Western migration, including an oil boom as in Oklahoma back then, as in, e.g., his "The Symbol of the Unconquered" (1920) (another argument, by the way, for watching "Watchmen," which includes a fictional film-within-film made by Micheaux, instead of attending some half-baked Film History 101 class). Enough of me venting my frustration over mine and our poor education, though. Time to remember one of the worst race massacres in America's long history of them.
I'm not going to try to retell the particulars of the violence from the government-sanctioned white mob that murdered dozens to hundreds of Africans Americans and burned down the Greenwood District of Tulsa, what was one of the richest neighborhoods in the country--earning it the name of "Black Wall Street." Besides, the CNN and History Channel docs do a better job on this history, including the prior history of Oklahoma as the territory for forcibly relocated Native Americans, including those who owned black slaves, before the discovery of oil in that formerly discarded land attracted white industry and settlers to take much of that territory, too. The strength of the PBS doc is in comparing Tulsa 1921 to the city today, particularly in regards to race relations. The result sometimes comes across as too fragmentary and some episodes are worse than others. What seems to be little more than an advertisement for an African-American tech start-up, for instance, is a relatively poor inclusion. More on point is coverage of the shooting of Terence Crutcher and the protests over painting "Black Lives Matter" on a Greenwood street, including their running up against a Blue Lives Matter march and, with historical comparison to Tulsa's past racial intimidators, today's white armed militia showing up to such an event. The search and excavation of mass graves is handled well, as in the other movies, and two of them at least seem to be good political publicity for Tulsa's mayor, who has supported these efforts (the History Channel one actually shows him being asked a politically-tougher question regarding reparations).
More unique to this picture is the examination of the legal battle for criminal justice and reparations from the massacre. Oklahoma's refusal to take up suggestions for such from a report on the massacre are covered, as are lawsuits from the survivors and descendants. Florida's settlement over the Rosewood race massacre of 1923 is mentioned as the only instance of such reparations, although, nationally, the case of some compensation for the interment of Japanese Americans comes to mind, as well. Overall, it's important and interesting history, even if handled more effectively elsewhere.
Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten
Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten
Deadly assault on the 100th anniversary of the crime in the context of other racial massacres and police killings.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
June 01, 2021 at 12:14 PM