The three remaining witnesses of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre will receive a monetary gift from the Justice for Greenwood Foundation, a Tulsa-based nonprofit organization. As the Washington Post reported, Viola Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield Randle and Hughes Van Ellis will each be given $100,000 following the centennial commemoration of the tragic event.
“This gift for the survivors of the Tulsa massacre shows that we have the power to demand justice for Black communities in Tulsa and all across the country,” said the foundation’s founder and executive director, Damario Solomon Simmons.
The monetary gift — a combination of donations from supporters of the foundation, Color of Change members and others who contributed to fundraisers — is “an important step in the long overdue path toward justice and an act of resistance to the city’s continued efforts to erase Greenwood’s Black community and history,” per a press release.
Since experiencing the massacre 100 years ago, Fletcher, Randle and Ellis have all opened up about their experiences in an effort to keep the story alive.
Randle recalled when white men and boys were made “special deputies” and instructed to set the city ablaze following rumors that a white girl was assaulted by a Black teen. “Some of [the buildings] they burned. Some they tore up,” she said. “It was quite something to see.…I never want to see anything like that again.”
Ellis noted that he served the country as a member of the Army but came to home to realize his skin color would continue to remain a hindrance to true progression.
“I fought for freedom abroad even though it was ripped away from me at home,” he said. “My home and my community were destroyed. It’s because I believe in the end America would get this right. When I returned home from the war, I didn’t find any of this freedom I was fighting for overseas. Unlike white servicemen, I wasn’t entitled to GI Bill benefits because of the color of my skin.”
Most notably, Fletcher testified about her experience in front of House members in the continued fight for reparations. While recognizing that the $300,000 gift fares in comparison to their desired compensation, Simmons hopes it would provide some sort of relief and hope to the survivors.
“We are immensely proud to play our role in rectifying these injustices,” he said. “Nothing can undo the immense pain inflicted upon the remaining survivors of the massacre, but alleviating their current financial burdens inflicted not only by the massacre itself but subsequent systemic racism is the least we could do for them as we continue to push for reparations. Now, we must work to ensure their stories are told, confronting our past and learning from it to ensure we actively challenge enduring injustices.”