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Judge Allows Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors To Sue For Reparations But Dismisses Descendants’ Case

Three survivors, all over 100 years old, demand justice for the 1921 racist attack that destroyed ‘Black Wall Street.’

On Aug. 2, an Oklahoma judge signed an order allowing the three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to continue their lawsuit for reparations under the state’s nuisance laws, the Associated Press reports.

The three survivors who can move forward with their case are  Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 106, Viola “Mother” Fletcher, 107, and Hughes Van Ellis, Sr.

But Tulsa County District Judge Caroline Wall rejected the reparation claims from six descendants of Black Greenwood residents victimized by the local white mob that went on a racist rampage, slaughtering an estimated 300 Black people and burning down homes and businesses in the prosperous Black community.

Wall also dismissed two others as plaintiffs in the case: The Tulsa African Ancestral Society and the Historic Vernon AME Church Inc., which didn’t exist when the massacre happened.

“Bottom line is that survivors are in, we have the opportunity to prove the massacre itself ... constitutes a nuisance,” the AP quoted Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney representing the survivors.

The destruction on May 31, 1921, of the once affluent Greenwood District, home of what was dubbed “Black Wall Street,” caused decades of harm, Solomon-Simmons and others have argued.

“We look forward to proving our case around the massacre’s ongoing catastrophic effects and demonstrating the actions that defendants must take to repair and rebuild the Greenwood community during our clients’ lifetimes,” said Solomon-Simmons, who filed the suit in 2020.

He stated that the descendants who were dismissed from the case were disappointed but “still very excited, heartened by the fact that we are moving forward and that these survivors can represent the entire community of Greenwood.”

RELATED: The Tulsa Race Massacre 100 Years Later: Why Descendants Are Demanding Reparations For The Racial Terrorism Their Ancestors Faced

RELATED: Report Finds Tulsa Race Massacre Has National Impact on Black Wealth 100 Years Later

There was also a mixed result among the defendants. The judge dismissed two defendants: the Tulsa Development Authority and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, because they did not exist in 1921.

However, she declined to dismiss as defendants the city of Tulsa, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Tulsa County commissioners, the Tulsa County sheriff and the Oklahoma Military Department.

The lawsuit seeks reparations under the state’s public nuisance law. According to ABC News, the law allows lawsuits against authorities connected with the massacre.

Attorneys for the victims allege in the lawsuit that racial and economic disparities from the destruction of businesses and other property continue a century later. It accuses city and county officials of blocking Greenwood’s efforts to rebuild after the massacre while supporting the development of Tulsa’s white communities.

Beyond compensation for punitive damages, the lawsuit seeks the creation of a Tulsa Massacre Victims Compensation Fund, along with mental health and education programs.

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