Though it lead to major divisions and discussions earlier this year when first broadcast on HBO, Watchmen – Damon Lindelof’s thematic ‘sequel’ to the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons epic, groundbreaking 1980’s graphic novel – certainly covered a lot of ground and received a lot of attention. Though it deals with an alternate history, the opening salvo featured an all-too-real-life incident that would echo down the mini-series’ narrative. On 30th May 1921 an encounter between a young black man and a young white woman – both in their teens – was the prelude to what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. The incident led to hundreds of injuries, numerous deaths and the destruction of the ‘Greenwood’ area, essentially destroying what was a thriving community and often referred to as the ‘Black Wall Street‘. It was a bloody, violent and devastating event, seen in retrospect as a unapologetic land-grab by influential members of the area, and one would think would stain the history books for generations to come. However it’s not clear if a single white member of the community received any jail time and the massacre is barely taught in schools and in many cases, viewers were not aware the Tulsa scenes historical setting was based on a real incident.
This weekend marks the anniversary of ‘Juneteenth’ an unofficial holiday that notes the time that Major General Gordon Granger came coming to Galveston, Texas in 1865 with news that all previously-enslaved Black Americans in the area were now free. It followed the earlier ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ in 1863 that had ordered the same for all lands that had been owned by the vanquished Confederates but which was very slow to take hold in the wider states. (It was legally abolished in December of that year). The date of ‘Juneteenth’ and location of Tulsa have been in the news again recently when Donald Trump decided to resume doing election rallies (despite the current COVID-19 situation) and chose Tulsa for the occasion on the very weekend of that anniversary. (he subsequently moved his rally by twenty-four hours). Racist abuse and race-related discrepancies and injustice have also come to the fore again with the killings of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks by police-officers – making the anniversary and race-related issues more poignant than ever.
Now, as Gov. Ned Lamont says he is considering calls to make 19th June a formal holiday in Connecticut, HBO is making the entire Watchmen limited series available for free for the ‘Juneteenth’ weekend (Friday to Sunday) alongside other productions such as Being Serena, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and specific episodes of series Treme, True Detective, and The Shop.
All nine Watchmen episodes will be available on HBO.com and for free on-demand. HBO said in a formal statement that this was: “…an extension of the network’s content offering highlighting Black experiences, voices and storytellers. HBO is proud to offer all nine episodes for free of this timely, poignant series that explores the legacy of systemic racism in America.“