LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s The SpringHill Company is partnering with CNN Films on its previously announced documentary about the history of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Massacre of 1921.
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 James and Carter with Jamal Henderson and Philip Byron for The SpringHill Company.
Once a thriving community of bankers, lawyers, and business owners, the Greenwood district of Tulsa — known as “Black Wall Street” – 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 archaeological search for the mass graves.
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. The partners expect the film to be completed in early 2021.
CNN Films will be the linear television distributor for the feature throughout North America. HBO Max, also under the WarnerMedia umbrella, 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,” Henderson, The SpringHill Company’s chief content officer, said in a statement. “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.”
James and Maverick united SpringHill Entertainment, The Robot Company and Uninterrupted in June to form The SpringHill Company, with backing from investors.
As the centennial anniversary of the tragic event approaches, the SpringHill/CNN project is one of several on the subject in production. Each project, including the SpringHill/Salima Koroma doc, was first announced in June. Cineflix Productions and Surviving R. Kelly executive producer Dream Hampton are working on a limited docuseries which isn’t currently attached to a broadcaster. Also, acclaimed director Stanley Nelson and eOne company Blackfin are collaborating on a docuseries, Terror in Tulsa: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street.
With files from Barry Walsh. Image courtesy of The SpringHill Company/Patrick Altema