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Tulsa Race Massacre survivor files lawsuit against Tulsa

Almost 100 years ago, white mobs attacked residents of the Greenwood District in North Tulsa, perpetrating one of the most devastating race massacres in the history of the country.. It is unknown exactly how many people were killed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, but it is thought to be as many as 300 individuals. The Greenwood district took up about 40 blocks and was filled with Black-owned businesses, an extremely successful and booming part of the city Between May 31 and June 1, 1921, though, the mobs burned it down. Now, as The New York Times reports, “Greenwood is now only half a block.”

Almost 100 years after the Tulsa Race Massacre, the survivors and families affected are still looking for justice. The New York Times reports that “the lawsuit, which was filed in Tulsa County District Court, names seven defendants, including the Tulsa County sheriff, the Oklahoma National Guard and the city’s Chamber of Commerce.” However this is not the first time victims have come forward. In 2005, Tulsa Massacre victims brought a case to the Supreme Court which was declined. Court judges told them they had waited too long to file a lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs is Lessie Benningfield Randle. Randle is 105 years old and just a child when the Tulsa Race Massacre occurred. The New York Times reports that according to the lawsuit, Randle says “she still has flashbacks of corpses being stacked on the street as her neighborhood burned.” Randle and the other plaintiffs are looking for “top priority for Black Tulsans in the awarding of city contracts and tax relief and scholarships for the descendants.” The plaintiffs also complain that “the city and the Chamber of Commerce tried to cover up the massacre, distorting the narrative to present Black residents as the violent instigators.” According to the lawsuit, following the Tulsa Race Massacre, zoning ordinances and public funding made it extremely difficult for Black business owners to rebuild and reopen, restricting the Greenwood district exponentially. The New York Times mentions that the Tulsa Sheriff’s Office and Tulsa’s Mayor, G.T. Bynum, had declined to comment.

What used to be called the “Tulsa Race Riot” has since been renamed to properly depict what happened in 1921. The New York Times interviewed Rev. Dr. Robert Turner with the Tulsa Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the only standing structures following the Tulsa Race Massacre. Turner said that the Greenwood district is, “so much more than a tourist site — it’s a crime scene. Until Tulsa does right by Greenwood, this district will forever be a crime scene.”

Post Author: Maggy Crawford