Oprah developing race riot miniseries starring Octavia Spencer

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Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network is developing a two-part miniseries chronicling one of the ugliest and least-known chapters in U.S. history.

In Tulsa, Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer (The Help) plays a journalist who investigates the 1921 Oklahoma race riots, where an estimated 300 people were believed to have been murdered amid post-WWI racial tension surrounding segregation laws and the prosperous black community of Greenwood. According to a 2011 New York Times story on the subject, “The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private…an episode so brutal that this city, in a bout of collective amnesia that extended more than a half-century, simply chose to forget it ever happened.”

The announcement came as part of OWN’s Thursday upfront, revealing the net’s next slate of programming — which also included the network’s first scripted movie, My Name is Love: The Darlene Love Story. The period biopic will star Toni Braxton.

My Name is Love has the Grammy-winning singer-actress playing Love, a singer who worked with Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, among others. From the release: “Whether it was the wild parties Tom Jones used to throw, how Elvis came on to her backstage at his 1968 comeback special, or her love affair with Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, Love holds nothing back as she recalls the exciting events that make up her life…This is the dishy and dramatic story of a woman who had it all, lost it all, but never, ever refused to give up.” Love herself has an executive producer credit on the film, along with Winfrey and filmmaker Morgan Neville. The movie will debut in December.

Also in the works: Belief, a seven-part docu-series “exploring humankind’s ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves.” The show will explore various belief systems around the world.

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