Tulsa Massacre Doc From 'Good Trouble' Director Set at Nat Geo (Exclusive)

Red Summer
National Geographic/Christopher Creese

National Geographic will mark the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre with a feature documentary.

The film, Red Summer, comes from acclaimed filmmaker Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble, Gideon's Army). It aims to shed light on the historical forces that led to the killing of as many as 300 Black residents and the razing of a thriving business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and also track present-day efforts to bring some justice to victims.

It's scheduled to premiere in June, marking both Juneteenth and the 100th anniversary of the massacre.

The film features Washington Post journalist DeNeen Brown, who reports on the search for mass graves in Tulsa and finds new insights into the period known as Red Summer — a time between 1917 and 1923 when Jim Crow laws were at their height, the Ku Klux Klan was in the midst of a resurgence and scores of Black homes and businesses were destroyed and hundreds of people lynched, with little to no punishment for the perpetrators.

"This story has been a century in the making, but it took DeNeen's powerful call to action for the city of Tulsa and wider American community to fully realize the necessity of unearthing the truth about this massacre," said Porter. "As a filmmaker, following the evidence where it leads and giving a voice to those directly affected by the Red Summer's tragic events is an incredibly delicate undertaking. There is so much our society is currently reckoning with, but seeking the truth about the damage wrought by unchecked and unsanctioned mob violence against the Black community, is a starting point to acknowledge these wrongs and make room for healing to take place."

The excavation of a possible mass grave in Tulsa will be covered in a future issue of National Geographic magazine. Red Summer also features archival footage and interviews with survivors, as well as new interviews with historians and others.

"There is an urgency here to not only properly honor those who were murdered and bring comfort to their surviving family members but also for Tulsa, and countless others, to acknowledge and address the ways in which Black citizens have been denied protections and opportunities," said Brown. "We find ourselves at a true inflection point this year, and if we can learn from the past and bring justice to those who had none until now, perhaps we can all find peace."

Porter is the director of Red Summer and produces via her Trilogy Films. Trailblazer Studios also produces in association with National Geographic Studios. Brown is contributing reporter, and Lauren Capps is story producer. Trailblazer Studios' Jeff Lanter and Ashleigh Di Tonto and Nat Geo's Christine Weber executive produce.

A trailer for Red Summer is below.

 

 

Feb. 23, 11:15 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that DeNeen Brown is a Tulsa native (she grew up in Oklahoma and Kansas and lived in Tulsa as a teenager) and that the National Geographic Society was partly funding the excavation of a possible mass grave. The city of Tulsa is funding the excavation.