Survivors and their descendants are still fighting for restitution 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Today (May 31) and tomorrow (June 1) mark the 100-year anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, a violent attack by white rioters on Black residents and businesses in Oklahoma’s prosperous Greenwood District, also known as Black Wall Street.
Monday, May 31 marks 100 years since a white mob's deadly attacks on African Americans in the neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thousands were left homeless and up to 300 Black people were killed https://t.co/eyhp6NtObu 1/8 pic.twitter.com/vVWlCm9w6O
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 31, 2021
The deadly rampage, which left hundreds of Black Americans killed, businesses and homes destroyed and has been described as “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history,” will be commemorated with events and a visit from President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
As the observation of the massacre approached earlier this month, advocates and descendants of survivors have ramped up their legal efforts to finally get restitution for the atrocities that Black families and business owners endured over the two-day attack. One of those legal efforts is a lawsuit that aims to find the full amount of damage perpetrated by white rioters and address the lasting effects of inequality in the city today.
The suit was filed by Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons last September and, CBC reports, plaintiffs are set to submit a legal response tomorrow to stop the suit from being dismissed.
“It’s, in my view, probably the worst act of domestic terrorism that we’ve ever seen,” McKenzie Haynes, one of the lawyers involved in the suit, told CBC Radio this week. “Black people in America have been hunted and treated like non-humans for centuries and what happened in Tulsa in 1921 was just a testament of that.”
According to a Human Rights Watch report, thousands of survivors were also sent to internment camps. Now, African Americans are calling for justice and reparations at the federal and local level 3/8 pic.twitter.com/pEOIcpBIfs
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 31, 2021
The suit doesn’t name a monetary value that Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and their descendants are owed, but instead introduces several measures that are intended to decrease the economic inequality felt in the area as a direct result of the riot.
“Their property was taken, businesses were destroyed, people were murdered, families were separated and [north] Tulsa became a ghetto,” Haynes said. “The inequalities are tremendous.”
Past legal efforts to get reparations for survivors and their descendants have failed due to the statute of limitations. However, this new suit mirrors arguments used in the 2019 ruling that held Johnson & Johnson accountable for Oklahoma’s opioid drug crisis. At the time, the pharmaceutical company was ordered to pay $527 million in restitution after a judge found their deceptive marketing caused an “ongoing public nuisance.” Under the state’s “public nuisance statute,” Haynes said, the statute of limitations can be overlooked.
“We wanted to parallel the race massacre and the harm that was caused as a ‘public nuisance,’ basically saying that the massacre itself caused a public nuisance that is continuing to this day,” she explained.
The future of the lawsuit will be determined tomorrow, when plaintiffs submit their response to a motion to dismiss the suit. Watch the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commemoration and candlelit vigil, which were broadcast earlier this morning, below.
Each and every survivor and family effected by the massacre are owed.
Viola Fletcher, one of three centenarian survivors of the attack, testified in the U.S. Congress earlier this month.
Viola Fletcher was 7 when a white mob destroyed her all-Black neighborhood in Tulsa and killed 300 Black people.
100 years later, she and other survivors are still demanding justice. pic.twitter.com/b2KgSnzt2c
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 31, 2021
Viola Fletcher, one of the survivors of the Tulsa race massacre, was just outside taking pictures and showing us her new shoes
She was 7 years old when she witnessed an white mob destroy her home 100 years ago this week pic.twitter.com/HTrC6TwMji
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) May 31, 2021