Most White people unaware of Tulsa Race Massacre before "Watchmen"
Tulsa's Greenwood District, home to Black Wall Street, on May 31, 1921. HBO
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What would we do without television? Television serves as our source of entertainment, providing us with insight into historical news events, such as the Tulsa Race Massacre, an event that occurred over 100 years ago, yet, many Americans had no recollection of this eminent part of history.

On May 31, 1921, a group of White individuals conveyed racial terrorism as they terrorized the Greenwood District, attempting to eradicate Black success. On that day, 300 innocent Black lives were lost due to internalized racism.

With this event being a significant part of American history, many presume that others are informed of the massacre. However, that was not the case, as many White folks, and even some Black and Brown folks, were first introduced to the Tulsa Race Massacre through an HBO television show, “Watchmen”.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning NYT journalist Nikoke Hannah-Jones speaks in north Tulsa at the Booker T. Washington High School on the 101st anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre on May 31, 2022. (Chris Creese / The Black Wall Street Times).

HBO’s Watchmen expanded cultural awareness

From the opening scene, the HBO show starring Regina King employed historical accounts of the Tulsa Race Massacre to provide awareness about a concealed part of American history. While the first scene sets the stage for a relived version of the Tulsa Massacre, it was a surprise for viewers, not only the sequence of events but the lesson behind the massacre.

The silent movie tells the narrative of a corrupted officer, Whites wanting to lynch a Black man, and a Black hero who adheres to the law. The “Watchmen” truly captured the Tulsa Race Massacre, as they employed every horrific and graphic event for the audience to realize what happened over 100 years ago. In addition, they conveyed the Ku Klux Klan members with torches, hunting and shooting any Black members that they saw in Tulsa.

After finishing the episode, many people were in disbelief, believing the events in the show were fiction. Google searches were at an all-time high, as people became invested in learning more about the Tulsa Race Massacre. Many White viewers shared on social media about having no knowledge on the Tulsa Massacre.  

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The last three living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre enter Tulsa County courthouse for a hearing on Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons’ public nuisance lawsuit on Monday, May 2, 2022. (Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)
The last three living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre enter Tulsa County courthouse for a hearing on Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons’ public nuisance lawsuit on Monday, May 2, 2022. (Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)

Ian S. Fraizer tweeted, “I’m an American in my late 30s and had never heard of “Black Wall Street” or the Tulsa Race Riots until tonight. I only learned of them after researching a scene in #Watchmen that I initially assumed was a fictional event because of the aircraft.”

Zack Hunt tweeted, “I’m embarrassed to admit I had never even heard of the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921 before tonight’s episode of Watchmen on HBO. Even then I thought it was part of the show’s hyper violent alternative history…”

The power of media

This demonstrates the suppression of Black history, and how important historical topics such as the Tulsa Massacre are not recognized as people remain unaware of significant history.

Because of the “Watchmen”,  many Americans finally became informed on a missing piece of history. Through the episode of the “Watchmen”, the foundation of the Tulsa Race Massacre is prevalent, encapsulating many topics connected to being Black in America.

By capturing details from the Massacre, the authors were able to capture the audience’s attention, however, the rooted details of the obscured history of Black Wall Street played a significant part as well.

Hello, my name is Sydney Anderson and I am from the Bronx, New York. I am a junior at Delaware State University, majoring in mass communications with a concentration in convergence journalism. At DSU,...

2 replies on “Most White people unaware of Tulsa Race Massacre before “Watchmen””

  1. I was born and raised in Oklahoma. I’m not 100% sure about the other districts of my home state, but I can confirm that the Tulsa massacre was taught along with the atrocities committed against tribes within the state. Fun fact in a decade it will be the 200 year mark for when the Trail of Tears began.

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