The TV series will mark the 100th anniversary of the tragedy

By Lindsay Kimble
June 10, 2020 01:04 PM
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Former Oklahoma City Thunder player Russell Westbrook will executive produce an upcoming television series chronicling the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

The series — from Blackfin, who also produced Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez & Murder Tapes, and director Stanley Nelson — will mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of the massacre.

"Spending 11 years in Oklahoma opened my eyes to the rich and sordid history of the state. When I learned about the heartbreaking events that happened in Tulsa nearly 100 years ago, I knew this was a story I wanted to tell. It’s upsetting that the atrocities that transpired then, are still so relevant today.," Westbrook, 31, said in a statement provided to PEOPLE. "It’s important we uncover the buried stories of African Americans in this country."

"We must amplify them now more than ever if we want to create change moving forward," Westbrook added.

Westbrook also confirmed the news on Twitter, writing, "#TerrorInTulsa."

The Tulsa Race Massacre began on May 31 in 1921 and lasted until June 1 — and is said to be the “single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

It began after a young black man named Dick Rowland rode alone in an elevator with a white woman named Sarah Page on May 30 of that year.

Rowland was arrested the following day and allegedly accused of sexually assaulting Page, and a white mob demanded he be turned over to them.

The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
Everett/Shutterstock
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
Everett/Shutterstock

A group of approximately 25 black men went down to the courthouse and offered to help protect Rowland, fearing that he may be lynched by the mob, but were turned away. As the mob continued to place pressure on the sheriff and local guardsmen, more black men returned to the courthouse later that night.

Nearly 1,500 armed white men faced off against about 75 black men outside the courthouse. Shots were fired and the violence ensued, the historical society said.

As the outnumbered black men retreated to Greenwood, the segregated city’s predominantly black district, the mob began burning and looting many of the district’s black businesses. White men also began making “drive-by” shootings in black residential neighborhoods.

The city was placed under martial law and the National Guard was brought in to halt the violence. At the end of the carnage, 35 city blocks were in ruins while over 800 people were being treated for injuries. It was reported that 36 died in the riot, but historians now believe that number may actually be in the hundreds.