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    Last known survivors of Tulsa Race Massacre challenge Oklahoma high court decision


    OKLAHOMA CITY — Attorneys for the last two remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday to reconsider the case they dismissed last month and called on the Biden administration to help the two women seek justice.

    Viola Fletcher, 110, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 109, are the last known survivors of one of the single worst acts of violence against Black people in U.S. history. As many as 300 Black people were killed; more than 1,200 homes, businesses, schools and churches were destroyed; and thousands were forced into internment camps overseen by the National Guard when a white mob, including some deputized by authorities, looted and burned the Greenwood District, also known as Black Wall Street.

    In a petition for rehearing, the women asked the court to reconsider its 8-1 vote upholding the decision of a district court judge in Tulsa last year to dismiss the case.

    “Oklahoma, and the United States of America, have failed its Black citizens,” the two women said in a statement read by McKenzie Haynes, a member of their legal team. “With our own eyes, and burned deeply into our memories, we watched white Americans destroy, kill, and loot.”

    “And despite these obvious crimes against humanity, not one indictment was issued, most insurance claims remain unpaid or were paid for only pennies on the dollar, and Black Tulsans were forced to leave their homes and live in fear.”

    Attorney Damario Solomon Simmons also called on the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the massacre under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007, which allows for the reopening of cold cases of violent crimes against Black people committed before 1970. A spokesperson for the DOJ declined comment.

    The lawsuit was an attempt under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law to force the city of Tulsa and others to make restitution for the destruction. Attorneys also argued that Tulsa appropriated the historic reputation of Black Wall Street “to their own financial and reputational benefit.” They argue that any money the city receives from promoting Greenwood or Black Wall Street, including revenue from the Greenwood Rising History Center, should be placed in a compensation fund for victims and their descendants.



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