A lawsuit seeking reparations for survivors and descendants of the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre can move forward, an Oklahoma judge ruled.
Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall ruled against a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Monday, allowing the suit, first filed in 2020 by civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, to proceed. The three remaining survivors of the massacre, all over 100 years old, were present in the Tulsa courtroom as the judge handed down her decision.
"We want them to see justice in their lifetime," said Solomon-Simmons, according to the Associated Press. "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."
FOUND HUMAN REMAINS COULD BELONG TO VICTIMS OF 1921 TULSA RACE MASSACRE
Viola Fletcher (107), Hughes Van Ellis (101), and Lessie Benningfield Randle (107) are escorted out of the courtroom. Van Ellis applauds. They’ve waited over a century for a day in court after surviving the massacre. They’ve never been compensated or given restitution. pic.twitter.com/ucs6CHK4xd— Chris Polansky (@ChrisKPolansky) May 2, 2022
The actions of the white mob that killed hundreds of black residents and destroyed many buildings resulted in racial and economic disparities that exist in the city today, the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified punitive damages and the establishment of the Tulsa Massacre Victims Compensation Fund, argues.
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The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre took place in under a day when a white mob stormed the black neighborhood of Greenwood, attacking residents, businesses, and homes. Many buildings, including churches, hotels, a school, and more, were torched.
Though only 36 deaths were recorded in relation to the massacre, the death toll could be as high as 300, historians have suggested.