Tulsa race massacre victims’ descendants can’t sue for reparations: Judge

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The three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre were allowed to move forward with their lawsuit seeking reparations for the attack in which a white mob killed hundreds of Black people, while the descendants of victims were dismissed from the suit, per AP News.

On Tuesday (August 2), Tulsa County District Judge Caroline Wall signed an order allowing survivors Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 106, Viola “Mother” Fletcher, 107, and Hughes Van Ellis, Sr., 101, to continue seeking reparations under state nuisance laws.

However, six descendants of victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre can no longer sue for reparations as Wall dismissed them from the suit as plaintiffs along with the Historic Vernon AME Church Inc., which did not exist in 1921, and The Tulsa African Ancestral Society, which represents other descendants.

The Tulsa Development Authority and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission cannot be sued in the suit because they, too, did not exist in 1921, Wall ruled.

The remaining defendants include the city of Tulsa, the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the Tulsa County commissioners, the Tulsa County sheriff, and the Oklahoma Military Department.

Tulsa’s then-thriving Greenwood District was destroyed by a white mob during the 1921 massacre that left an estimated 300 Black people dead and businesses and homes burned to the ground.

Tuesday’s order calls for the legal teams of both sides to amend the claim for reparations, which sought unspecified punitive damages, the creation of a hospital in north Tulsa, mental health and education programs, and a Tulsa Massacre Victims Compensation Fund.

“Bottom line is that survivors are in, we have the opportunity to prove the massacre itself … constitutes a nuisance,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney representing the survivors who filed the lawsuit in 2020.

“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,” Solomon-Simmons added.

According to the lawsuit, the city and insurance companies failed to compensate victims for their losses resulting in racial and economic disparities that still exist today.

Following the massacre, city and county officials actively hindered efforts to rebuild Greenwood and the predominately Black north Tulsa community, the suit alleges.

Solomon-Simmons said the descendants were “saddened” that they were dismissed from the suit but happy for the survivors who can continue seeking long-overdue reparations.

“They were saddened they were dismissed out, but they are still very excited, heartened by the fact that we are moving forward and that these survivors can represent the entire community of Greenwood,” Solomon-Simmons said.

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