A reparations lawsuit filed on behalf of the three known living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was dismissed by an Oklahoma judge. The legal battle seeking the rebuilding of elements of the former Greenwood community and donations to a survivors fund met its fate on Friday (July 7).
Plaintiffs Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108, Viola Fletcher, 109, and Hughes Van Ellis, 102, were all children when their affluent Black neighborhood, often referred to as the “Black Wall Street,” was burned to the ground by an angry mob of white men and women. The fiery assault was launched after claims that 19-year-old Dick Rowland had assaulted a 17-year-old teen named Sarah Page. The massacre left thousands without homes and may have killed upwards of 300 people.
In their argument for dismissal, attorneys for the city of Tulsa said, “Simply being connected to a historical event does not provide a person with unlimited rights to seek compensation from any project in any way related to that historical event.” Judge Caroline Wall sided with them.
“Upon hearing the arguments of counsel and considering the briefs filed by counsel for plaintiffs and counsel for defendants, the court respectfully finds and order the plaintiffs’ second amended petition should and shall be dismissed with prejudice,” wrote Wall in her ruling, according to documents on the state’s court network. Her decision prevents the suit from being refiled in state court. However, the survivors can still seek an appeal.
As previously reported by REVOLT, Ed Mitzen, a New York philanthropist and co-founder of the nonprofit Business for Good, donated $1 million to Fletcher, Randle, and Ellis in May 2022. Mitzen hoped the funds would ease financial burdens for their families and show that people cared about their stories. He told NBC News that the centenarians’ loss was a disappointment and an “incredibly sad development.”
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