LeBron James to Co-Produce 'Dreamland' Documentary on Black Wall Street

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2020

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James wears a Black Lives Matter shirt as he takes to the court prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)
Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press

LeBron James' SpringHill Company is partnering with CNN Films to create a documentary about Black Wall Street and the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre entitled DREAMLAND: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street.

James will serve as an executive producer on the project alongside Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson and Philip Byron from the SpringHill Company and Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton of CNN Films. The project is being directed and produced by Salima Koroma (Bad Rap). 

Henderson spoke about the decision to highlight Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre:

"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."

The Greenwood district of Tulsa became a hub for black-owned businesses in the early 1900s, with "luxury shops, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, jewelry and clothing stories, movie theaters, barbershops and salons, a library, pool halls, nightclubs and offices for doctors, lawyers and dentists," per Alexis Clarke of History.com. 

Oklahoma and Tulsa were segregated at the time in a Jim Crow America, with a railroad line separating the Black and white populations of the city, so "having a self-contained and self-reliant Black economy came to be not only by desire but by logistics," Clarke noted. 

But many white Tulsans of the time resented the Greenwood district, including the state's Ku Klux Klan population. When 19-year-old Black man Dick Rowland was falsely accused of attempting to sexually assault a 17-year-old girl, Sarah Page, a white mob stormed the sheriff's office and demand he be handed over. When the sheriff Willard McCullough refused—and a number of Black men went to guard the courthouse—a mob of 1,500 whites ransacked Greenwood, murdering its Black residents and looting and destroying its businesses and homes. 

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The death toll is unclear to this day, with estimates at the time of 36 deaths, though historians have since suggested the figure is likely closer to 300, per History.com. An estimated 1,256 houses were burned and another 215 were looted. 

The event was largely erased from the history books. The Tulsa Tribune removed its front-page story about the massacre and both police and military archives chronicling the event also were reportedly erased. When HBO's The Watchmen referenced the horrors of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 2019, it's likely that a number of its viewers had never learned about it in schools.