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Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations Lawsuit Will Proceed

Tulsa Race Massacre Reparations Lawsuit Will Proceed

An Oklahoma judge ruled on Monday that a lawsuit seeking reparations for survivors and descendants of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre can proceed. The lawsuit was filed in March 2021 and looks to not only set the record straight on what took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921, but also create a special fund for survivors and descendants of the massacre that left at least 300 Black people dead and the once-booming neighborhood of Greenwood destroyed.

Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall’s ruling brought new hope for some measure of justice over the racist rampage in which an angry white mob killed hundreds of Black residents and destroyed what had been the nation’s most prosperous Black business district.

Judge Wall’s decision Monday on the case, which has been 100 years in the making, means America could be held accountable for a previous injustice and could lay the groundwork for similar cases in the future.

The Tulsa Race Massacre, which is not commonly taught in American public schools, is said to have been sparked during a misunderstanding fueled by racial tensions and lasted for several days. A white mob laid waste to about 35 blocks, including the Greenwood District, a thriving Black hub of commerce that was home to multiple millionaires and about 300 Black-owned businesses. It is colloquially known as Black Wall Street.

Within 16 hours, local police arrested thousands of Black residents, while others were robbed, beaten, and killed. Historic photos show entire blocks gutted by flame and Black people lying in the street.

After the riots ended, insurance companies denied Black residents claims for what today would be tens of millions of dollars in property damage, including the destruction of two Black hospitals and 1,256 residences, according to the Greenwood Cultural Center.

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Lawyers for the seven plaintiffs–three of whom are survivors who range in age from 100 to 107–hope to resolve the lawsuit quickly enough for them to see the fruits of their labor come to pass. Civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, who filed the lawsuit in 2020 under the state’s public nuisance law, pressed the judge to move quickly. “We believe this is the last opportunity for these survivors to have their day in court,” Solomon-Simmons said, citing their ages. “We want to ask (the judge) to move forward and move forward as soon as possible.”

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