Oklahoma Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Reparations for Survivors of Tulsa Race Massacre

In a 5-4 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the last living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre seeking reparations from the city and state. The ruling comes just days before the 103rd anniversary of one of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history.

The lawsuit, filed by 105-year-old Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle and her sister Viola Fletcher, who is turning 107 on May 31st, argued that the state of Oklahoma and city of Tulsa had failed to adequately compensate survivors and their descendants for the deadly destruction of their community.

On May 31st, 1921, a white mob descended upon the affluent Black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, known as “Black Wall Street,” burning homes and businesses to the ground while killing an estimated 300 people. The massacre left thousands homeless and destroyed what was once considered one of the most prosperous Black communities in America.

The lawsuit sought reparations for damages suffered by survivors, including loss of property, income, and mental anguish. It also called for a declaration that the massacre was a violation of international law and sought a public apology from the city and state.

However, according to the majority opinion of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the lawsuit was dismissed due to a legal technicality. The court ruled that because more than 20 years had passed since the massacre, any potential claims for damages were barred by the statute of limitations.

The ruling has sparked outrage and disappointment among advocates for reparations and descendants of massacre survivors. Many argue that it is unjust to deny justice to survivors who have been systematically denied compensation for their suffering for decades.

In recent years, there has been renewed attention on the Tulsa Race Massacre, with efforts to uncover and acknowledge the full extent of the tragedy. In 2001, a state commission was formed to investigate the massacre and its effects on survivors and descendants. However, despite their findings, no reparations have been awarded.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision is a setback for those seeking justice for victims of historical racial violence and raises questions about whether reparations will ever be granted for past injustices.

As we approach the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, it serves as a reminder that our country still has a long way to go in addressing and making amends for its history of systemic racism.

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