'Watchmen' Creator Damon Lindelof Dedicates Emmy to 'Victims and Survivors' of Tulsa Massacre of 1921
By Jennifer Drysdale
Watchmen creator Damon Lindelof dedicated the team's Emmy for Outstanding Limited Series to the victims and survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. In a powerful acceptance speech, Lindelof opened up about the lasting "fires" from one of the single worst acts of racial violence in American history -- and how we can put them out together.
"Thank you to the Academy for this incredible recognition, to our fellow nominees, to Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, to HBO and Warner Bros., to our partners, spouses, and children, who tolerated our absence and enabled our presence. Thank you to every person who invested nine hours of their life into Watchmen," Lindelof began. "I want to thank the people standing beside me, Zooming and zapping in from around the world. They told their stories, and I'm honored to be able to accept on their behalf."
"History is mystery, it's broken into a million puzzle pieces. We know finding them will hurt. Sometimes we caused that hurt, maybe we even benefited from it. But we have to name it before we can name it," he said. "Be careful, be clumsy, run hot, be the bull in the china shop, don't stop until it's great. Affirm. It's never great enough. Dissent. Be consistent. Embrace paradox, and stop worrying about getting canceled. Worry about what you're doing to get renewed."
Lindelof concluded, "We dedicate this award to the victims and survivors of the Tulsa massacre of 1921. The fires that destroyed Black Wall Street still burn today. The only way to put the fires out is if we all fight them together. God bless, stay safe and thank you for this."
The Tulsa Race Massacre was heavily featured in Watchmen, shining a light on the story which has remained largely ignored in American history classes. From May 31 to June 1, 1921, mobs of white residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, attacked the Black people and Black-owned businesses of the city’s Greenwood District. According to The New York Times, it "was one of the worst outbreaks of racial violence in American history: a horrific spree of murder, arson and looting inflicted by white residents upon the prosperous African American community of Greenwood, followed by a shameless cover-up."
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 Atlantic article, “The Case for Reparations,” brought larger attention to the Tulsa Race Massacre, and Lindelof has cited it as inspiration for his adaptation of Watchmen and thanked Coates in his Emmy acceptance speech.
“At the time that I was sort of approached to consider rethinking Watchmen, I had to answer the question, ‘What is the pervasive sort of anxiety in America right now?’” Lindelof explained to NPR. “And it was impossible, as all these things were happening -- not just Charlottesville but everything was happening through the lens of race and it felt like there was a great reckoning happening in our country, overdue and necessary. This idea that Watchmen has always been about the history that has been kind of hidden and camouflaged, and also it's about the pain and trauma that is sort of buried in the American consciousness. And I started to feel like it was incredibly important to tell a story about race. To not tell a story about race in the context of a political text in 2019 almost felt borderline irresponsible.”
While speaking with ET after his Emmy win, Lindelof opened up more about trying to bring awareness to the Tulsa Race Massacre.
"That's the part fo the of the story that I think I was most terrified about personally, but we also felt so much passion for it collectively," he told ET's Kevin Frazier.
"When Watchmen premiered in October, that night, the word Watchmen was not trending on Twitter, but 'Black Wallstreet' and 'Tulsa Massacre' were, and it just shows you that people have a real hunger to find these missing pieces of history. You just have to find ways that are a little bit off the beaten path to tell them," he told reporters backstage. "And my feeling about a show that was about injustice... it felt like the perfect vehicle to talk about this forgotten atrocity."
Lindelof was also asked about potentially giving the series a second season. (He has previously said he's done with Watchmen, but gives his blessing to any other creators who want to continue the show.)
"It would feel like a huge betrayal of winning Limited Series to say, 'Well, it was only limited series, dot, dot, dot.' Watchmen is something that I've loved since I was 13 years old, and someone else created it, this was my run on it, and I've invited any other artist who wants to take the baton, I'll teach them everything that I knew, but I'm so much more excited about seeing what someone else does with it than seeing what I would do with it," he shared. "And I think it makes the experience so much more special for having been just these nine episodes."
The HBO series also took home Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, for Regina King, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, for Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie or Dramatic Special, Outstanding Casting for a Limited Series, Movie or Special, Outstanding Cinematography for a Limited Series or Movie, Outstanding Fantasy/Sci-Fi Costumes, Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (Original Dramatic Score), Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Limited Series or Movie, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Limited Series, Movie or Special and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Limited Series or Movie.