This film was screened at the AFI Docs Film Festival. It is streaming on National Geographic and Hulu.
On May 31 and June 1, 1921, the prosperous Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was attacked and almost completely destroyed in a race massacre that historians and scholars have called one of the single worst incidents of racial violence in American history. As many as 300 people were killed, 1,400 homes and businesses were burned, and 10,000 people were left homeless. But despite the severity and barbarity of the Tulsa Race Massacre, it is rarely mentioned in local, state and national histories.
National Geographic Documentary Films has provided us with a great ethical and moral service by presenting a two-hour investigation of this scourge in American history and other race massacres and violent incidents preceding it. Award-winning Washington Post journalist and Oklahoma native DeNeen Brown serves as host of Rise Again: Tulsa and The Red Summer. She presents the efforts of city officials, archaeologists, and family members who a century after the massacre are trying to locate the mass graves of the victims as a first step in facing up to what happened. Watching the excavations at Oak Lawn cemetery, Brown explains that Tulsa is finally learning from its horrific history and is bringing justice to those who have denied it for too long.
Brown has made it her mission to tell the stories that have not been told. She is joined by other scholars and historians who talk about the spree of white mobs attacking Black neighborhoods across the country in the summer of 1919, known as the "Red Summer" for all the blood that was spilled. Twenty-six cities were sites of massacres including East St. Louis, Omaha, Alliance, Georgia, and Washington, D.C., where Black veterans of World War I staged an effective resistance.
The details in these accounts are shocking: the brutal dismemberment of a Black man accused of touching a white woman; the popular custom of making postcards out of pictures of lynched men and destroyed homes; the horrific fear-mongering in the film Birth of a Nation. We learn how economic envy in combination with the lies of white supremacy played roles in Tulsa.
This film is a wake-up call for Americans who find that they know very little about the race massacres of the early twentieth century. It is also a rallying cry for those who recognize that we must resist the same racism which endures to this day.