Motown to Release ‘Fire in Little Africa,’ Album Commemorating 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Jem Aswad
·3-min read

“Fire in Little Africa,” an album of original material, written and recorded by a collective of Oklahoma hip-hop artists to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, will be released on May 28 by Motown Records/Black Forum in partnership with Tulsa’s Bob Dylan Center and Woody Guthrie Center.

According to the announcement, the 21-track album “gets to the truth of what happened on May 31 and June 1, 1921 when a white mob descended on the streets of Greenwood — then a prosperous Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street — and burned down the business district, destroying roughly 1,500 homes, killing hundreds and leaving thousands of Black Tulsans homeless. For years, this historic, albeit dire, chapter was left out of classrooms and textbooks as the city attempted to erase this part of its past.

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“The artists heard on ‘Fire in Little Africa’ get to the truth through urgent songs, recalling stories told and stories lived in hope to usher in a new era for Tulsa as they help the community process this generational trauma through music,” it concludes.

Motown Records Chairman & CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam said: “‘Fire in Little Africa’ is a powerful and timely project that provides a platform and outlet for the incredibly talented and thriving music community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am honored and feel privileged to have Motown Records/Black Forum partner with Dr. View, the Bob Dylan Center and Guthrie Center to release this impactful hip-hop album.”

Stevie “Dr. View” Johnson, PhD, Manager, Education & Diversity Outreach at the Woody Guthrie Center | Bob Dylan Center and the album’s executive producer, added, “‘Fire in Little Africa’ has evolved into a communal hip hop movement and we’re excited that we get to share the flavor, history and legacy of Black Wall Street with the world, in collaboration with the amazing leadership of the Motown/Black Forum family. We’re grateful for Ethiopia’s foresight in providing us an opportunity to share our important stories with the world. There are Black Wall Streets across the diaspora and we unequivocally know that ‘Fire in Little Africa’ will inspire many people. In the words of Steph Simon, ‘everything is us.’”

The album was recorded in Greenwood over a five-day period in March 2020. Studios were set up at the Greenwood Cultural Center and other locations, including the former home of KKK leader Tate Brady, who led the massacre. The house is now owned by former NFL first-round draft pick and Tulsa native Felix Jones. The album’s artists are pictured above in front of the house.

Located in the Tulsa Arts District, the Woody Guthrie Center opened in 2013. The Bob Dylan Center is expected to open on the same block within the next year. Both are projects of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the primary funder for Fire in Little Africa. The album is chronicled in a documentary film, which will be released later this year.

“Fire in Little Africa” marks the first new material released by Black Forum since the label’s relaunch earlier this year.

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