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A group of survivors and descendants of victims filed the lawsuit Tuesday demanding reparations for a massacre in which white mobs killed hundreds of people and burned 35 blocks of a thriving Black neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Lessie Beningfield Randle, 105, is the lead plaintiff and one of two known survivors still alive; she joins the great-granddaughter of JB Straford—the owner of the Stradford Hotel in Greenwood, the largest Black-owned hotel in the United States at the time—along with the grandchildren of many of those killed in the massacre.
The lawsuit alleges that the massacre, one of the worst acts of racial violence in U.S. history, still overshadows the Greenwood neighborhood and that Tulsa's racial inequality today can be traced back to the events of almost 100 years ago.
The claimants directly implicate the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, the Oklahoma National Guard, and the Tulsa regional chamber of commerce, asserting that they have "unjustly enriched themselves at the expense of the Black citizens of Tulsa and the survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre."
According to attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, "The Greenwood massacre deprived Black Tulsans of their sense of security, hard-won economic power, and vibrant community...it has led to the devaluation of property in Greenwood and has resulted in significant racial disparities in every quality of life metric—life expectancy, health, unemployment, educational level, and financial security."
Survivors of the Tulsa Greenwood Massacre and descendants of the victims filed a lawsuit seeking redresshttps://t.co/sr9pjtA4tw
Although in 2001, an Oklahoma state legislature commission found that the city conspired with white mobs against Black residents and recommended direct payments to survivors and descendants, no payments were ever made. However, the survivors were given a medal by the city later that year.
A 1921 Red Cross report found that for two days, 35 city blocks were systematically looted and then burned to a cinder, killing over 300 people, destroying 1,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in the Greenwood neighborhood of around 10,000 Black residents, popularly known as "Black Wall Street," as it was one of the most affluent Black neighborhoods in the U.S. at the time.