Tulsa Race Massacre survivors to have lawsuit appeal heard by Oklahoma Supreme Court!

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - The historic reparations lawsuit launched by the last three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is still alive after the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed to review an appeal by the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit launched by Tulsa Race Massacre survivors Viola Ford Fletcher (c.), Hughes Van Ellis (r.), and Lessie Benningfield Randle is still alive.
The lawsuit launched by Tulsa Race Massacre survivors Viola Ford Fletcher (c.), Hughes Van Ellis (r.), and Lessie Benningfield Randle is still alive.  © MANDEL NGAN / AFP

In July, Viola Ford Fletcher (109), Lessie Benningfield Randle (108), and Hughes Van Ellis (102) saw their case "dismissed with prejudice" by District Judge Caroline Wall – only the latest setback in a years-long search to establish accountability for one of the worst acts of racial violence in US history.

The three centenarians were children when a mob of white law enforcement officers and civilians murdered hundreds of Black people in the then-thriving Greenwood District, virtually wiping out what was known as Black Wall Street.

Filed in 2020, the lawsuit argued that the massacre was a "public nuisance," which the authorities never addressed. It has been fought tooth-and-nail every step of the way by City of Tulsa and Tulsa County, who eventually got their way in July, after multiple attempts to secure a dismissal.

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The survivors and their legal team launched an appeal at the beginning of August, arguing that the district court's decision placed an unjust legal burden on the plaintiffs, who were expected to specify an exact remedy for the injustice they're alleging – before the case has even gone to trial.

On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court handed down a hugely significant ruling: the appeal will be heard.

Tulsa Race Massacre survivors "holding their breaths" for their long-awaited day in court

In 1921, a mob of white law enforcement officers and civilians murdered virtually wiping out what was known as Black Wall Street.
In 1921, a mob of white law enforcement officers and civilians murdered virtually wiping out what was known as Black Wall Street.  © WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Damario Solomon-Simmons, lead attorney for the survivors and Justice For Greenwood founder, summed up the feeling after news of the decision broke.

"We're excited! We're thankful to the Oklahoma Supreme Court," he told KOKH-TV. "[The survivors] are holding their breaths and crossing their fingers that this will be decided sooner than later so they can be here to see it."

Solomon-Simmons pointed out that the Supreme Court will not deliver a verdict on the substantive issues of the case.

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"They're simply going to say, 'Hey, these people should have the opportunity to develop their case, present it to the court, and then have the opportunity for a yay or nay at that point,'" he said.

A date for a final decision on the appeal has not yet been set.

Cover photo: MANDEL NGAN / AFP

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