Remembering Black Wall Street

Remembering Black Wall Street: Movies and Series that Honor its Legacy

The tragic events of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921, which saw the destruction of the thriving Black neighborhood known as Black Wall Street, have left an indelible mark on American history. The Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had been a prosperous hub of African-American entrepreneurship and culture, showcasing remarkable resilience and economic success despite the oppressive Jim Crow era. Today, the story of Black Wall Street remains a poignant reminder of the resilience of the Black community and a testament to the enduring spirit of progress. Several films have sought to portray this powerful history, educating and inspiring audiences about the strength of the human spirit amidst adversity. In this article, we will explore some notable movies that pay tribute to the legacy of Black Wall Street.

“Tulsa” (1949)

One of the earliest films to touch on the subject of Black Wall Street was “Tulsa,” a 1949 drama directed by Stuart Heisler. Starring Susan Hayward and Robert Preston, the film revolves around a love story set against the backdrop of the discovery of oil in Oklahoma, which ultimately leads to the growth of the Greenwood District. While the film does not explicitly focus on the Tulsa Race Massacre, it provides a glimpse into the life and culture of the African-American community in the area.

“Before They Die!” (2008)

Directed by Reggie Turner, “Before They Die!” is a powerful documentary that delves into the history of Black Wall Street and the events that led to its tragic demise. The film features interviews with survivors, descendants, and historians who recount the harrowing tales of the massacre. Through their firsthand accounts, “Before They Die!” serves as a moving tribute to the resilience of the victims and their families.

“Black Wall Street Burning” (2013)

In 2013, award-winning filmmaker Marcus Brown brought the events of the Tulsa Race Massacre to life with the release of “Black Wall Street Burning.” This docudrama showcases the development and subsequent destruction of the Greenwood District through a compelling mix of interviews, archival footage, and reenactments. The film’s raw portrayal of the violence and devastation faced by the residents of Black Wall Street ensures that the memory of their experiences endures.

“Dreamland” (2021)

“Dreamland,” directed by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, is a fictional drama set against the backdrop of the Great Depression. While not exclusively centered on Black Wall Street, the film weaves in the story of the Greenwood District and its eventual destruction during the Tulsa Race Massacre. With a talented ensemble cast that includes Margot Robbie and Finn Cole, “Dreamland” sheds light on the events that have remained obscured from mainstream historical narratives.

Rebuilding Black Wallstreet – Morris Chestnut and Oprah Winfrey (2023)

The trailer for OWN’s forthcoming docuseries, “Rebuilding Black Wall Street,” featuring host Morris Chestnut has been revealed.

Premiered on Sept. 29, the series will follow Chestnut and build teams, led by designers Jon Pierre and Mary Tjon-Joe-Pin (Two Steps Home), as they take viewers through Greenwood’s rich history and the personal journeys of those featured – many of whom are the descendants of original Black Wall Street residents – over the course of six episodes. As new businesses and projects progress, viewers will experience the physical and emotional challenges that come with large-scale construction and celebrate the promise of Greenwood’s future. (Own)

Movies are powerful tools for education and remembrance, and the stories surrounding Black Wall Street deserve to be shared with a broader audience. Through a combination of historical accuracy and creative storytelling, filmmakers have sought to immortalize the legacy of Black Wall Street, ensuring that the sacrifices and achievements of the community are never forgotten. By watching these movies, audiences can gain a deeper understanding of the strength and resilience of the African-American community during a tumultuous period in American history. As we continue to remember Black Wall Street, let us also strive for a more inclusive and just society, where the lessons of the past are used to build a better future for all.