The SpringHill Company and CNN Films have partnered to produce a new documentary that explores the history of ‘Black Wall Street’ and the violent events of late May and June 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of the city’s African American residents.
Dreamland: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street, currently in production, is directed and produced by Salima Koroma (Bad Rap), and executive produced by LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson, and Philip Byron of The SpringHill Company, and Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton of CNN Films.
Jamila Jordan-Theus and Patrick Altema of The SpringHill Company are co-executive producers for the film.
CNN Films will be the linear television distributor for the feature throughout North America, whilst HBO Max has acquired streaming rights to the film.
“At SpringHill, we embody empowerment and focus on shining a light on stories that are the fabric of American history,” said Jamal Henderson, The SpringHill Company’s chief content officer.
“We cannot move forward until we acknowledge our past and this is about honoring a prosperous, booming Black community, one of many, that was brought to an end because of hate.
“With the lack of historic journalism around ‘Black Wall Street’ and the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, we are honored to be partnered with CNN, which has a long-standing record of credible and groundbreaking journalism.
“We are bringing this documentary together with a diverse crew, including local Tulsans, and making it our mission to uplift voices and people while creating impactful content.”
Once a thriving community of bankers, lawyers, and business owners, the Greenwood district of Tulsa, was also a community of the descendants of American slaves.
In late May 1921, a 17-year-old white woman accused a 19-year-old African American man of inappropriate behavior in an elevator inside the Drexel Building. When a white mob attempted to lynch the accused, they were rebuked by African American World War I veterans.
The backlash riots in the ensuing days resulted in the destruction of 35 city blocks, and hundreds of dead African Americans.
Dreamland: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street will reveal this history, tell the stories of the descendants of survivors, and explore the findings of the archeological search for the mass graves.
“CNN Films could not be more proud to partner with The SpringHill Company for this long-overdue recognition of the tragedy of what happened in Greenwood, and to contribute to the reconciliation that comes with the acknowledgement of history,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide.
“Salima Koroma’s vision will yield a truly thoughtful film.”
The production is a mix of archival media, contemporary interviews, and narrated elements such as letters and diary entries. It will also include footage of the near-century search for physical evidence of the mass murder that some had tried to erase from the historic record. The partners expect the film to be completed in early 2021.
The deal was negotiated with The SpringHill Company by Josh Tarnow, vice president for business and legal affairs at The SpringHill Company, and Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both of CNN Worldwide, on behalf of CNN Films.