tulsa massacre

Oklahoma Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Reparations For Greenwood Massacre Of 1921

An Oklahoma judge has denied the petition brought by families of the survivors of the 1921 Tulsa massacre, all of whom are over 100 years old, on the basis that they did not show proof of “individualized injury”. NBC News reports that Judge Caroline Wall dismissed the suit with extreme prejudice, which means that the three survivors who were seeking damages will be unable to refile in state court. An appeal is still on the table, however, and philanthropist Ed Mitzen, who gave Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis a sum of one million dollars, called the judge’s ruling “an incredibly sad decision”.

The argument from the defense, that is, the State of Oklahoma and the City of Tulsa, was that the plaintiffs did not suffer individual and adverse effects as a result of the massacre. A specific clause in their argument claimed that “simply being connected to a historical event does not provide a person with unlimited rights to seek compensation”. An argument that likely appealed to the sensibilities of Wall, who is a Republican judge. Ballotpedia describes Wall as a constitutional conservative, which is a philosophy concerned primarily with limiting the government’s scope.

The Greenwood Massacre of 1921 most likely began as either a misunderstanding or a lie following a Black teenager getting into an elevator with a white teenager. The city newspaper called for a lynching, and the next day white mobs were looting and burning down the district. These actions resulted in the deaths of an estimated 300 people and the destruction of a thriving Black community, affectionately referred to as Black Wall Street. Lawyers for the families are expected to appeal the judge’s ruling. Van Ellis told CNN “My life was taken from me. I lost 102 years, I don’t want nobody else to lose that.” Speaking to CNN, Ike Howard, a grandson of Viola Fletcher expressed his frustration, calling on the Department of Justice to get involved: “They were blighted and once again not made whole. We still remain blighted. We wish the D.O.J would investigate…How can we get justice in the same city that created the nuisance? Is justice only for the rich?”