Court Dismisses Lawsuit From Race Massacre Survivors

Oklahoma's top court upholds judge's decision
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 12, 2024 2:12 PM CDT
Court Dismisses Lawsuit From Race Massacre Survivors
Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Viola Ford Fletcher speaks during an interview with the AP last year.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit from the last two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. The decision dampened the hope of advocates for racial justice that the government would make amends for one of the worst single acts of violence against Black people in US history, the AP reports. The nine-member court upheld the decision made by a district court judge in Tulsa last year's ruling that the plaintiff's grievances about the destruction of the Greenwood district, although legitimate, did not fall within the scope of the state's public nuisance statute.

  • "Plaintiffs do not point to any physical injury to property in Greenwood rendering it uninhabitable that could be resolved by way of injunction or other civil remedy," the court wrote in its decision. "Today we hold that relief is not possible under any set of facts that could be established consistent with plaintiff's allegations."

  • The suit was an attempt to force the city of Tulsa and others to make recompense for the destruction of the once-thriving Black district by a white mob. In 1921, on May 31 and June 1, the white mob, including some people hastily deputized by authorities, looted and burned the district, which was referred to as Black Wall Street. As many as 300 Black Tulsans were killed, and thousands of survivors were forced for a time into internment camps overseen by the National Guard.
  • The two survivors of the attack, Lessie Benningfield Randle and Viola Fletcher, who are both now over 100 years old, sued in 2020 with the hope of seeing what their attorney called "justice in their lifetime." A third plaintiff, Hughes Van Ellis, died last year at age 102.
(More Tulsa Race Massacre stories.)

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