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Dawn Porter talks ‘Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer’ and the importance of having these stories told

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Kevin Scanlon

Dawn Porter is revisiting the past in an effort to change the future with her new Nat Geo doc Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer.

The two-hour feature, led by award-winning journalist and Oklahoma native DeNeen Brown, centers on the post-slavery massacres of African Americans. It also comes at the 100-year anniversary of the June 1, 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, in which hundreds of Black Tulsans died and hundreds more lost their homes and property at the hands of their white neighbors.

“I think you have to be looking for history sometimes to find it,” Porter tells ABC Audio, explaining why such stories often aren’t told. “And that’s why when we talk about the need for having Black people, people of color, people of different races and backgrounds in storytelling, this is one of the prime examples. If you are looking for these stories, they are there for you to find.”

“We covered a handful of the massacres,” says Porter. “There were 26 race massacres across America in this concentrated period.”

Some of those massacres, which took place between 1917 and 1923, came during an intolerable time for African Americans. In addition to Jim Crow laws, they were dealing with the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. Porter makes it clear that the doc isn’t just about examining the struggles of Black Americans, but honoring their resilience. 

“[It’s] a story of celebration,” she says. “Because when you think of how successful these people were in Tulsa, just 40, 50 years out of slavery. They owned banks, and oil wells, and barbershops, and they had this thriving community so successful that it was a threat.”

“It was a threat to white supremacy,” Porter emphasizes. “And so I came away from this special with such a pride.”

Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer premieres Friday, June 18 at 9 p.m. ET on Nat Geo.

Nat Geo is co-owned by Disney, parent company of ABC News.

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