n a heartbreaking blow to the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and their quest for justice, an Oklahoma judge has denied their plea for reparations. Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis, the last known survivors of the massacre, have been engaged in a lengthy legal battle to receive financial restitution and other forms of reparations.
Their lawsuit against the City of Tulsa sought not only financial compensation but also a 99-year tax exemption for the descendants of the massacre victims in the Greenwood neighborhood. However, Judge Caroline Wall dismissed the case, siding with the city officials who argued that the claimants did not possess unlimited rights to compensation.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was a horrifying event that claimed the lives of approximately 300 black people, leaving behind a trail of destruction and devastation. It stands as a stark example of the erasure of black wealth, with families losing everything and subsequent generations forced to rebuild from scratch.
Undeterred by the setback, the plaintiffs have vowed to continue their fight for justice. Damario Solomon-Simmons, their lead attorney and founder of the Justice for Greenwood Foundation, expressed disappointment over the dismissal and called for a federal investigation into the massacre. He emphasized the enduring burden of racial trauma carried by Black Americans and reaffirmed their determination to seek justice.
Solomon-Simmons noted the additional challenges faced by Black Americans when seeking justice within the legal system and lamented the dismissal’s impact on the ongoing struggle for racial equality. The legacy of racial harm and distress, particularly evident in Tulsa, disproportionately affects Black communities, further underscoring the urgent need for justice and restitution.
The attorney’s reaction to the dismissal reflects the profound disappointment felt by the survivors and their advocates. Having waited over a century for justice and reparations, the news came as a devastating blow. The dismissive response to their rightful claims exemplifies the ongoing struggle to address historical racial injustices.
The Tulsa Race Massacre was ignited by an incident in which a white woman accused a Black man of assaulting her in an elevator on May 30, 1921. The subsequent arrest of the accused man triggered a surge of white people demanding his release. The situation escalated when World War I veterans, among other Black men, came to the courthouse to confront the mob. Violence erupted, leading to looting, arson, and the brutal assault of Black residents.
Tragically, no one was held accountable for the violence that unfolded during the Tulsa Race Massacre. The recent dismissal of the survivors’ case serves as a painful reminder of the lack of compassion and restitution for the victims of anti-Black racial violence. It highlights the urgent need for genuine conversations and actions regarding community reparations programs to address the destruction inflicted upon Black communities.
Dr. Karlos Hill, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, expressed his deep disappointment at the dismissal, emphasizing the lack of empathy and willingness to address the profound loss and suffering endured by the victims, survivors, and their descendants. He stressed that a community that was destroyed deserves reparations and called for a compassionate and sincere dialogue regarding restitution.
The denial of reparations for the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. It underscores the imperative for society to confront its painful history and actively work towards healing the wounds inflicted by racial violence and systemic oppression. The quest for justice continues, fueled by the resilience and determination of those who refuse to be silenced.