For many African Americans familiar with the story, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre proved to be one of the most heinous acts of hatred done upon our ancestors based simply on their skin color and self-made affluence.
While 100 years hasn’t nearly been long enough for any of us to forget the mental anguish and economic setback for an entire generation, Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall made a move in court on Monday that could change everything by giving the green light on a reparations lawsuit for survivors and descendants of the many we lost in the infamous attack.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 2020 by attorneys on behalf of living Tulsa victims and descendants, cites the city’s failure to compensate those wronged at the time of the original attacks which led to racial and economic disparities prevalent in Tulsa today. After a motion was made to dismiss the suit, Wall ruled against it in a courtroom filled with cheers and tears of joy alike.
Lead attorney and civil rights activist Damario Solomon-Simmons highlighted survivors Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, Viola Fletcher, 107, and Hughes Van Ellis, 101, as the driving forces behind this suit, stating, “I’ve seen so many survivors die in my 20-plus years working on this issue. I just don’t want to see the last three die without justice. That’s why the time is of the essence.”
More on this monumental ruling below, via AP News:
“Solomon-Simmons sued under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, saying the actions of the white mob that killed hundreds of Black residents and destroyed what had been the nation’s most prosperous Black business district continue to affect the city today. The lawsuit also seeks reparations for descendants of victims of the massacre.
‘In public nuisance cases, it is clear either criminal acts or destruction of personal property’ constitute a nuisance, said Eric Miller, a Loyola Marymount University law professor working with the plaintiffs. Miller said that racial and economic disparities resulting from the massacre continue to this day.
Chamber of Commerce attorney John Tucker said the massacre was horrible, but the nuisance is not ongoing.
‘What happened in 1921 was a really bad deal, and those people did not get a fair shake … but that was 100 years ago,’ Tucker said.”
If things continue to push forward from here, the lawsuit will be seeking unspecified punitive damages in addition to a new hospital in north Tulsa, both mental health and education programs, plus a Tulsa Massacre Victims Compensation Fund.
For the sake of what those Tulsa victims had to endure over a century ago, we hope this case goes all the way. Best of luck!
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