Oklahoma Supreme Court Dismisses Lawsuit By Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors

Tulsa Massacre Survivors

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has dismissed the lawsuit brought by the last two remaining survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Survivors Viola Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield Randle, and the late Hughes Van Ellis filed the suit against the city of Tulsa in 2020, aiming to hold the city accountable for the devastation of their communities during the 1921 massacre.

The Tulsa Race Massacre saw a white mob burn down Greenwood, a prosperous Black neighborhood, killing residents, looting, and destroying property over 35 blocks in 16 hours of violence.

The survivors contended that Tulsa has since profited from the tragedy by promoting it as a tourist attraction without compensating the victims or the community.

They argued that the massacre created a “public nuisance,” warranting compensation.

The district court initially dismissed the case, asserting that the survivors did not have the right to compensation simply because of their connection to the event.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld this decision, stating that existing laws do not allow for the expansion of public nuisance rules to provide the survivors the justice they seek.

While the court acknowledged the “legitimate and worthy of merit” grievances related to the social and economic inequities stemming from the massacre, it concluded that it could not rule in favor of the survivors based on current laws.

For 109-year-old Viola Fletcher and 107-year-old Lessie Benningfield, this decision marks a disappointing end to a lifelong battle for justice.

Their lawyer expressed hope that the courts would recognize their claims, noting that this was likely their final chance for legal recourse.

It remains to be seen if any other legal avenues are available for the survivors to achieve closure and compensation.