Ahead of Sunday’s premiere of the new HBO series Watchmen, through which Damon Lindelof extends the graphic novel of the same name, most critics and viewers kept asking the same questions. Specifically, they were concerned about whether the show would hold true to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ original vision while updating it for modern times. Once the dust had settled late Sunday night, however, most viewers were less concerned about adhering to the source material and more about the Tulsa race riot, or “Black Wall Street” massacre, of 1921.
That’s because the first eight minutes of Lindelof’s series opens with a horrifying depiction of this very-real event from African-American history. On May 31st, 1921, a mob of white Tulsa residents descended upon the city’s Greenwood District — a predominantly African-American community that was known as the “Black Wall Street” — and attacked. Even privately-owned planes from a local airfield were dispatched to the area, where they shot at residents and firebombed buildings. Dozens were killed, though a 2001 state commission’s investigation suggested that number is much higher.
Needless to say, it was a disgusting — but real — event in U.S. history, and Sunday’s Watchmen premiere opened with what many were calling its first-ever depiction in mass media.
— theblerdgurl™️ is Sister Night’s Tailor (@theblerdgurl) October 21, 2019
Yo! I just said this! Black Wall Street has never been mentioned or recreated in any media platform before…Big Ups to the writers on this one foreal! pic.twitter.com/CQh54I2Vrh
— Deja (@RebelleDeja) October 21, 2019
Well #WatchmenHBO started off with one of hell of a daring bang by portraying the horrific bombing of Black Wall Street.
— STEVE HUFF (@SteveHuff) October 21, 2019
Did it really take an HBO comic book series to get White folks to google up the end of Black Wall Street? Is the news I’m waking up to this morning?
— Randolph Terrance (@realtalkforyou) October 21, 2019
This quickly led to a wealth of knowledge about the historical incident being shared, prompting “Black Wall Street” to start trending on Twitter.
The white terrorist massacre of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street in 1921 takes up the first eight minutes of the #WatchmenHBO series premiere. Watch—then read about it. We all should know that racial terrorism at one point involved white folks dropping bombs on black people from planes. https://t.co/vli7GNtmbw
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) October 21, 2019
— Jeneé Osterheldt (@SincerelyJenee) October 21, 2019
— Sophie Vershbow (@svershbow) October 21, 2019
I see Black Wall Street trending and I wish more people knew about it. They bombed the area since African-Americans becoming rich so of course they weren’t ready for it. To any black man or women who doubts themselves, take inspiration from this right here ✊🏾 #BlackWallStreet pic.twitter.com/mYDFT0UVnx
— Nathan Amazan (@AmazanNathan) October 21, 2019
Which was great, because some initially thought it was Lindelof and company’s way of leaning into the story’s alternate universe.
REALLY enjoyed the premiere of #WatchmenHBO , but am embarrassed to admit that I assumed the opening scenes were an “alternate history” of a race massacre. Horrified to learn that the Tulsa “Black Wall Street” killings were a very real thing: https://t.co/91B7Hn7ZgX… 😳😖
— Ryan Johns⌬n (@RyTriGuy) October 21, 2019