An effort to dismiss the Tulsa lawsuit was denied May 3rd by Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall. Judge Wall said that the three survivors may proceed with their cases for reparations and justice. The three Tulsa elders are represented by Atty. Damario Solomon-Simmons. He has represented the survivors for 20 years and is seeking a payout for the last survivors and their descendants. The African American area of Tulsa was known as Black Wall Street and was documented as the wealthiest, self-sufficient community in the country.
Listening to Tulsa survivor Viola Fletcher, 107, testify about her lived experiences as a survivor of the 1921Tulsa Race Massacre is devasting. The elder testified before Congress in 2021, explaining that America can forget her travesty, but she will not. She witnessed history firsthand and recalled vivid details about the massacre. And she isn’t the only one recounting this nightmare, as Hughes Van Ellis, 101, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, also bear witness to this cruelty.
Ms. Fletcher told Congress that her family was forced to move away from the Greenwood district of Tulsa, leaving her with a fourth-grade education. After a lifetime of working as a domestic, she lives in poverty, while Tulsa executes plans for a $30 million dollar museum. Her life was filled with nightmares of dead bodies, Black businesses destroyed, smoke, flames, and white men shooting Black families from their airplanes. And she sat calmly, giving her perspective of how she still survives this horrifying event from her childhood.
She also spoke of white privilege, because mainstream communities were built up, while North Tulsa was left in shambles. Originally 40 blocks of homes and businesses existed and today there is less than one block of Black-owned shops. The churches, schools, two Black newspapers, and other mainstays were burned to the ground.
The Black community never caught up with the white community’s resources and financial success. The history of the Tulsa race riots was documented by two Black women. Mrs. Mary E. Jones Parrish published her book in 1923, titled “Events of the Tulsa Disaster”, with narratives and first-person accounts from survivors. The book was ignored.
Then retired school teacher, Mrs. Eddie Faye Gates, (who is still living, but in poor health), published her videotaped interviews, 600 photographs, and other documented research, which was given to the Gilcrease Gates collection in Tulsa in 1994. So, the research has always been on file for the public to review. It has been consistently passed over, when decisions have been made, eliminating survivors from due process of the law. Judge Wall is one of few people, who has listened to the 101-year history and has opened the door for the survivors to be heard “officially” in a court of law.
America awaits the announcement of upcoming court procedures.
This article was researched with the use of CNN’s hearings documentary, The Associated Press, and The New Yorker.