OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The attorneys for the two remaining Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and their families said they’re in a race against time as they continue to seek justice in a lawsuit for what happened more than a century ago.
The Tulsa Race Massacre took place in 1921 and led to the recorded murders of more than 300 Black Tulsans, as well as the destruction of the historic Greenwood neighborhood, often known as “Black Wall Street”.
“It took us 102 years to make it this far. And now, this could be our very last chance to seek justice in a court of law. The weight of this moment calls for us to stand firm and resolute to ensure that the scales of justice remain balanced. The Oklahoma Supreme Court holds the power to etch this chapter in history as the one where we chose justice over complacency,” said Attorney Damario Solomon Simmons in a prior statement to the station.
The plaintiffs and their legal team want the justices to make a ruling while the survivors are still alive.
“Some people are waiting for them to die, that’s what this is about,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin in a prior interview with the station.
Previously reported by the Associated Press, Oklahoma declined to discuss a settlement with survivors seeking reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in July.
“We’re not looking for a miracle. We’re just looking for them to apply the law as written,” said Simmons on Tuesday.
“We’re going to continue to push this issue till we get justice.”
While the fight for reparations is expanding across the country, no federal program exists, yet.
In a press conference on the steps of the Oklahoma State Supreme Court Monday, the attorneys for the group said this was their last push for justice.
“There is no going to the United States Supreme Court. There is no going to the federal court system. This is it,” said Simmons.
“It is imperative for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to acknowledge the defendants’ culpability and address the continued harm to residents today,” added attorney Randall Adams.
“The court has already found that we should get to go to trial and we should get a chance to actually prove the case, just like any other plaintiff in Oklahoma gets,” he continued.
The final brief addressed the following points:
- Reversal of District Court’s Dismissal of the Public Nuisance Claim
- Reversal of District Court’s Dismissal of the Unjust Enrichment Claim
The attorneys said a favorable decision by the court would be historic, monumental and time sensitive.
“It’s hard to put the urgency in words, particularly when I’m standing here right next to Uncle Redd’s his family, and he’s not here,” said Simmons.
By Uncle Redd, he was referring to Hughes Van Ellis, the youngest of the remaining Tulsa Massacre survivors.
The World War II veteran testified before Congress in 2021, sharing a pivotal statement,’ we are one’.
“I was able to sit there and hear him say,’ Please don’t let me die without getting justice,'” said Dr. Tiffany Crutcher.
Unfortunately, it’s not justice Ms. Van Ellis saw on this side of life.
Hughes Van Ellis, the youngest known survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre, died in October from cancer.
He was 102.
Mr. Van Ellis is survived by his sister, Viola Ford Fletcher, the eldest of the living survivors, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, who will celebrate her 109th birthday on November 10.
“I went with him to the nation’s capital and I was able to sit there and hear him say, ‘Please don’t let me die without getting justice’. And unfortunately, we lost him. But I do believe that we have to continue the work in his honor to make sure that justice is realized,” said Tiffany Crutcher, whose great-grandmother Rebecca Brown Crutcher, survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“We pray that the court treats us as Uncle Red always says, ‘as one equal under the law’, so that we can have our day in court,” she added.
The attorneys for the group said it’s unclear when a final decision will be made.