Exclusive: ABC Audio's Soul of a Nation: Tulsa's Buried Truth Unearths Black Wall Street's Painful History

Illustration for article titled Exclusive: ABC Audio's Soul of a Nation: Tulsa's Buried Truth Unearths Black Wall Street's Painful History
Image: ABC Audio

With ABC’s six-part documentary, Soul of a Nation, drawing to a close, the network has every intention of continuing to portray the realities of Black life in America.

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In fact, on April 6, ABC Audio will be premiering a new podcast, Soul of a Nation: Tulsa’s Buried Truth, that will explore one of the most brutal and rarely discussed attacks in American history. As many of you are well aware, in 1921, a violent white mob descended upon a prosperous Black community in Tulsa, Okla., known as Black Wall Street. And in less than 24 hours, they destroyed this neighborhood, killing as many as 300 of our people in the process.

Soul of a Nation: Tulsa’s Buried Truth, written and hosted by ABC News Senior National Correspondent Steve Osunsami, will feature archival audio accounts from witnesses, as well as interviews with historians as it brings listeners through this painful history and into our modern-day quest for closure and healing. In speaking with The Root, Osunsami explained the importance of Black Wall Street and what compelled him to revisit such a painful part of our history.

“It shocks me, as a high school and college-educated Black American, that until recently, the details of the Tulsa massacre have escaped me,” he said. “And I think that’s a shame. It says a ton about the way we, as Americans, record history that’s racist and ugly. We like to give it the silent treatment. And like a fight with someone in your family, simply ignoring the injury never makes it go away.”

He continued, “For all of our discussion in the Black community today about making Black-owned businesses successful, it will surprise many African-Americans that we had this already, in Tulsa. Black Wall Street as it was called, was the very definition of Black excellence at a time when few Americans thought it was possible. The Black dress shops, shoe stores, movie theaters and restaurants in the Greenwood neighborhood were all an economy unto their own. There were Black Americans at the time who lived better than their white neighbors.”

Considering that Tulsa is actually my hometown, it was always unsettling to me that I never learned anything about Black Wall Street until I was well into my teenage years, even though there were members of my childhood church who were actual survivors. It felt like the experience was so traumatic, that everyone tried their best to pretend like it never even occurred in order to preserve their emotional well-being and move forward. But as Osunsami explains, that was only a small piece of what was really going on.

“Black Wall Street was the victim of white jealousy,” he said. “In our episodes, we explain how the white Americans who ran the institutions kept this a secret, and how the Black families helped. In one episode, we meet singer Charlie Wilson, from the G.A.P. Band, who’s from Tulsa. He explains that Black Americans who spoke about the massacre were worried they would get killed for talking.”

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There’s also the issue of reparations, which the podcast touches on as well.

“We also talk about a divisive issue that kept coming up over and over again: reparations,” Osunsami said. “The families of the survivors want them. And they have harsh words for the corporations that have donated millions of dollars for a museum that’s scheduled to open this summer when Tulsa commemorates the 100th anniversary of the massacre.”

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Personally, I can’t wait to check out this podcast. And for those of you whose impatience has you feeling the same way, check out an exclusive trailer of this new show below.

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Soul of a Nation: Tulsa’s Buried Truth premieres April 6, with new episodes every Tuesday, on your podcast platform of choice.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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