Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations Lawsuit Moves Forwards After Judge Votes Against Dismissal
A judge has ruled that the 1921 Tulsa race massacre lawsuit may move forward after the defendants pushed to have it dismissed.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking reparations for the deadly May 1921 massacre that claimed the lives of many Black people in the prosperous Black Greenwood neighborhood, known as the "Black Wall Street." Racist white citizens burned down Black-owned businesses and homes, leaving the area in ruins. Initial reports claimed that the death toll was ten whites and 26 African Americans. However, experts now believe that at least 300 Black people were slaughtered.
On Monday, Judge Caroline Wall ruled that the motion to dismiss was "granted in part" and "denied in part," which allows the lawsuit to proceed. However, it is unclear if a trial will take place. Courtroom attendees cheered when the ruling was announced, including the three last surviving victims of the massacre. Hughes Van Ellis, a 101-year-old survivor, is confident that the ruling is "going to change things." The other two survivors are Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle, who are both 107.
In addition to the survivors, the lawsuit includes relatives of survivors. The suit names seven defendants, including the city of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Military Department, and the Tulsa Development Authority.
Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney for the plaintiffs, praised the small victory after years of working with the victims and their families.
According to the lawsuit, the city and insurance companies never reimbursed the plaintiffs for their losses. The devastating carnage resulted in racial and economic imbalances that are still felt today. Throughout the years, municipal and county leaders have aggressively hindered the community's efforts to rebuild Greenwood and the rest of the majority Black north Tulsa community. Instead, the local government has focused heavily on the white portions of Tulsa.
The lawsuit is seeking monetary reparations through a Tulsa Massacre Victims Compensation Fund. It also calls for the creation of a hospital in north Tulsa. The only two Black hospitals were famously burned down during the massacre. There has never been any rebuilt in north Tulsa to replace them.
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