Gayle King to Anchor “Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy”

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Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning, will anchor Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy, a one-hour CBS News primetime special marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre.

The special will be broadcast Monday, May 31 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy will also be presented on BET (Tuesday, June 1 at 11:00 PM, ET) and Smithsonian Channel (Tuesday, June 1 at 10:00 PM, ET).

Featuring first-person storytelling by 17 survivors, descendants, historians and thought leaders, Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy will look at the worst massacre on American soil ever, which unfolded on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On those two days, white Tulsans attacked, killed, destroyed and pillaged their Black neighbors, leaving about 300 people dead and razing a business district in the Greenwood section of Tulsa known as Black Wall Street.

“For years, what happened in Tulsa was hidden from America,” says King. “Many people still are unaware of the depth of death and destruction that occurred 100 years ago. It is important to dig up the past in order to realize a better future.”

“These were two days that will live in infamy,” says Alvin Patrick, executive producer of the CBS News Race & Culture Unit. “It is important on this 100th anniversary to reflect on this tragedy, to educate people about what happened and examine how the massacre still reverberates today in Tulsa and across the country.”

The immersive special features eyewitness accounts from survivors and descendants, who share their emotional accounts of the loss of family members and generational wealth. Using the vast and rich archives of CBS News, the special also looks at the era, known as Red Summer, when mass murder by White Americans of Black Americans was happening across the country. Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy will also focus on how Tulsa is rebuilding, both psychologically and physically, from a horrific moment in time that was hidden for several decades.

“They were giving notice out on the street: leave town, leave town, they’re killing all of the black people,” says Viola Fletcher, a 107-year-old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre.

In addition to Fletcher, the special features interviews with Lessie Benningfield Randle, a 106-year-old survivor.

The broadcast will also feature Tulsa Massacre descendants John Rogers, founder of the country’s first Black-owned asset management firm and whose great grandfather owned the Stradford Hotel; and CBS News correspondent Danya Bacchus, whose great, great grandparents owned the Dreamland Theatre. Both businesses were destroyed in 1921. In addition, CBS News Correspondent Omar Villafranaca, who served as a local anchor and reporter in Tulsa, will deliver first-person storytelling on the community’s rebuilding.

Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy includes interviews with Vanderbilt University professor and author Michael Eric Dyson; attorney and author Hannibal B. Johnson; Karlos K Hill, associate professor and chair of the Clara Luper Department of African and African American Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma; Michelle Place, executive director, Tulsa Historical Society and Museum; Rev. Robert R.A. Turner of the Vernon AME Church; civil rights attorney Damario Solomon Simmons; Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum; Karen Sieber, Red Summer historian at the McGillicuddy Humanities Center at the University of Maine; Mary N. Elliott, curator of slavery at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture; and John W. Franklin, Managing Partner, Franklin Global LLC.

Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy concludes with a special spoken-word performance by 17-year-old Garrett Bland, a senior at Booker T. Washington High School in Greenwood.

Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy is produced by the CBS News Race & Culture Unit. Alvin Patrick is the executive producer. Marcelena Spencer is senior producer.