Tulsa massacre survivors file lawsuit against city

The lawsuit against Tulsa alleges that the city has appropriated the massacre

This week, survivors of the Tulsa massacre and the descendants of the victims have filed a lawsuit against the city, stating that it is time they finally receive compensation for the losses they endured.

A hundred years ago, Greenwood was a thriving business district in Tulsa with over 40 blocks of restaurants, hotels and theaters owned and run by Black business owners.

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Tulsa race riot
Wikimedia: Tulsa Race Riot

However, in 1921, the Black entrepreneurship mecca was violently destroyed by an angry white mob after armed Black Tulsans trying to save a man from being lynched, confronted them.

Now all these generations later, Greenwood is now only half a block. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in this new case argue that Tulsa officials shamelessly appropriated the massacre and then tried to turn what little is left of the district into a tourist destination.

Tuesday, the lawsuit that was reportedly filed in Tulsa County District Court. It named seven defendants, including the Tulsa County sheriff, the Oklahoma National Guard, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s so much more than a tourist site — it’s a crime scene,” said the Rev. Dr. Robert Turner of the Historic Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tulsa, the only structure in Greenwood that was not destroyed by the mobs. “Until Tulsa does right by Greenwood, this district will forever be a crime scene.”

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One plaintiff, Lessie Benningfield Randle, was a child when the massacre occurred. Ms. Randle, who is 105, says almost a century later, she still has vivid flashbacks of the dead bodies being stacked on the street as she watched her neighborhood burn down.

“She constantly relives the terrors,” said Eric Miller, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “And yet the city of Tulsa has done nothing to compensate her for the damages it has inflicted on her life.”

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