GREENWOOD (feature spec, co-written with A.J. Orr)
Synopsis and script available upon request
Based on a true story, a 1920’s African-American lawyer takes on the system to defend the residents of Greenwood, the all-black district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, when it’s destroyed by an angry white mob.
Nearly a hundred years ago, the worst race riot in our country’s history ended with nearly 300 lives lost and the complete destruction of the African-American district of Tulsa, Oklahoma known as Greenwood.
In the early twentieth century, Tulsa was coined the “Oil Capital of the World.” Not only whites became rich, but some Greenwood residents did as well. Nicknamed the “Black Wall Street of America,” Greenwood was one of the largest all-black communities in the country with ten thousand residents. They not only survived in the Jim Crow era, they thrived.
But Tulsa in 1921 was also a ticking racial time bomb. African-American World War I veterans came back from Europe expecting equality after fighting for their country. They competed with white veterans for jobs and tensions escalated around the country. With segregation still firmly in place, African-Americans were not welcome in white Tulsa. Poor whites resented the affluent Greenwood residents, and any mingling of the two races was deeply frowned upon, especially between an African-American man and a white woman.
In May 1921, when 19-year-old bootblack Dick Rowland accidentally tripped getting onto an elevator in Tulsa and touched the arm of a young white woman, the fuse was lit.
Buck Colbert (B.C.) Franklin was an ordinary man who rose to the occasion during an extraordinary time. When few African-Americans obtained a college degree, much less a high school diploma, Franklin attended college and became a lawyer through sheer will and determination. He was not only intelligent but also a man of incredible integrity and believed he had a destiny to fill, which he did heroically.
Toward the end of his life, Franklin had the foresight to write down his story. He realized his noteworthy accomplishments, especially in the aftermath of the 1921 Riot and Massacre, and that the time he lived through needed to be recorded.
One of Franklin’s sons, John Hope Franklin, who was a young boy at the time of the tragedy, became a world-renowned historian, author, and professor. He worked with Thurgood Marshall on Brown v. Board of Education and wrote numerous books, including From Slavery to Freedom, which is still in print today. In 1995, John Hope was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Today, Greenwood is home to the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, which hosts an annual symposium on race relations.