Courtney B. Vance, Angela Bassett Teaming Up With MTV on Scripted Tulsa Race Massacre Series

Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance at otherhood premiere
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Netflix

The news comes ahead of the 100th anniversary of one of the worst acts of racial violence in America.

Ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when one of America’s single worst incidents of racial violence happened in history, MTV announced it is teaming up with Courtney B. Vance and Angela Bassett to produce a limited scripted series about the 1921 tragedy. 

The untitled drama will be written by playwright Nathan Alan Davis and depict events surrounding the two days when white residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacked and destroyed the prosperous Greenwood District, which was known as Black Wall Street at the time, and left hundreds of Black Americans dead and thousands homeless or displaced.  

“Angela and I have always had a deep appreciation for history, especially when it comes to stories that are rooted in the Black community. We look forward to working on this series with MTV Entertainment Studios that will explore an important slice of American history as we look to reflect on events that changed the lives of countless Black families in Tulsa, Oklahoma one hundred years ago,” said Vance. 

“We are excited to work with Nathan because his vision directly aligns with the story that Angela and I want to tell,” he continued. “Although the series will revisit the Black pain and tragedy that took place on May 31 and June 1, 1921, it will also importantly introduce to many the stories of the extraordinary, entrepreneurial people who built Black Wall Street and all that this  community accomplished.”

This is the first project from the acting legends’ Bassett Vance Productions as part of the deal made with MTV Entertainment Studios in 2020. And after having served as a writer for Facebook Watch's Sorry for Your Loss, this marks Davis' first run as a show creator. 

Davis added, “I am honored to be partnering with Courtney, Angela, MTV Entertainment Studios and their extraordinary teams in this vital endeavor. Exploring the history of Tulsa’s Greenwood District as a limited dramatic series affords us a precious opportunity and a deep responsibility. I greatly look forward to crafting a story that will not only shed light on the people of Black Wall Street, but give fresh life to the spirit, ideas, hopes, fears, and dreams that motivated them.”

While the 99th anniversary of the incident, which coincided with the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, saw announcements of several new projects, the HBO series Watchmen and Lovecraft Country were among the first modern programs to depict what happened in 1921. 

Vance, who most recently appeared on the latter HBO drama, told ET ahead of its 2020 premiere that it’s “wonderful that we're beginning to talk about it.” 

“People don't know about the Tulsa Race [Massacre]. People don’t know about all these incidents. Where would they find out? We go through high school, we go through grade school and it’s not taught. It’s glossed over and that’s very painful for all of us,” the actor continued, noting that “we’re all traumatized and harmed by the whitewash. History is told by the winners and nobody really wants to be blamed for anything that has happened and [it’s like] ‘It just happened and that’s just the way it was and it’s not our fault, so we’re just not going to talk about it.’ And it needs to be talked about. And it needs to be explored.” 

In the interim, three new documentaries from History, National Geographic and PBS are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, while there are a few other announced projects on the way as Hollywood finally shines a light on this piece of previously forgotten American history.