LeBron James plans to bring some new insight into the background of one of the most notorious instances of racial violence in American history.
SpringHill Company, owned by James, is working in tandem with CNN Films to produce “Dreamland: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street,” a documentary investigating the 1921 white mob violence that resulted in the massacre of hundreds Black citizens in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
LeBron James established SpringHill with his longtime business associate Maverick Carter. The entertainment media company landed a first-look deal with Universal Pictures in September, Variety reported.
SpringHill chief content officer Jamal Henderson issued a statement this week about the project:
“At SpringHill, we embody empowerment and focus on shining a light on stories that are the fabric of American history. 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.”
Before the destructive events that began on May 31, 1921, the Greenwood district of Tulsa, which came to be known as “Black Wall Street,” was a thriving community of African-Americans that included of doctors, lawyers, and business owners.
The conflagration was sparked when a young Black man named Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a white woman named Sarah Page in an elevator. He was arrested, and when a white mob went to the courthouse to get the sheriff to turn Rowland over to be lynched, armed Black men showed up to defend him. Shots rang out, and for the next 18 hours between May 31 and June 1, whites descended on Greenwood in a rage-filled orgy of looting, burning and killing across some 35 city blocks that left as many as 300 African-Americans dead and thousands of survivors homeless. Coverage of the event was largely muted at the time, and for generations afterward the event remained a suppressed memory in Tulsa history.
According to Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, “Not one of these criminal acts was then or ever has been prosecuted or punished by government at any level: municipal, county, state, or federal.”
The film will contain a combination of archival media, contemporary interviews and narrated elements such as letters and diary entries, according to Variety. Footage of the longtime search for tangible evidence of the massacre that some tried to eradicate is also expected to be incorporated.
James will act as an executive producer on the film, as well as Salima Koroma who will also be director.
Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, stated, “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,”she said. “Salima Koroma’s vision will yield a truly thoughtful film.”
The film is expected to be finished in early 2021.