PBS and NBC look back at Black Wall Street and the race massacre in Tulsa | COMMENTARY

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A sign marks the intersection of Green and Archer, the former home of Black Wall Street, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

One of the cultural benefits of streamed programming is how much great historical non-fiction it has opened up to millions of viewers. With its vast archive of historical productions, PBS has embraced this platform like few others, and one of its best documentaries is now available for viewing.

“Goin’ Back to T-Town,” an outstanding 1993 film by Sam Pollard, tells the story of one of the worst racial incidents in American history as we approach the centennial of the event May 31-June 1. The PBS franchise “American Experience” is now streaming the film about Greenwood, a thriving Black community in Tulsa during the 1920s and ‘30s. The district was burned to the ground by whites in 1921, but came back and by 1936 was said to have more Black-owned businesses than any city in the country. It was known as the Black Wall Street.


In connection with the film, American Experience will host an online conversation at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday (May 26). The event will include Carmen Fields, screenwriter of the documentary, and Karlos Hill, author of “The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre” and professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. The discussion will be moderated by Jessica Marie Johnson, professor of history at Johns Hopkins University.

NBC will also be offering a number of streamed programs in connection with the commemoration.


A collection of programming titled “Tulsa: The Massacre & the Movement” begins on Thursday, May 27 across “Today,” “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,”, MSNBC, NBC News NOW, CNBC and Peacock.

MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee will host a digital documentary “Blood on Black Wall Street: The Legacy of the Tulsa Massacre,” which examines how the violence inflicted on a once thriving economic community has impacted generations of Black Tulsans, according to a press release from NBC News. The documentary will stream Friday, May 28 on and NBC News NOW, and will also be available Sunday, May 30, on Peacock on demand.

Additionally, Lee hosts a two-part episode of MSNBC’s “Into America” podcast that traces the century-long financial impact of the massacre through the story of two Black families, as well as the efforts of white Tulsa residents as they face their families’ past. The first episode will be available on Thursday, May 27 and the second on Thursday, June 3.

David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic. Email:; Twitter: @davidzurawik.