(Left) Hughes Van Ellis; (Right) Viola Ford Fletcher; both are siblings who survived the 1921 Tula Race Massacre. | Source: TheBWSTimes

Tulsa Race Massacre Lawsuit: Black Wall Street Times Fumes Over Dismissal

In a continued fight for justice, Nehemiah Frank penned an open letter on the dismissal of the Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors' lawsuit by the Oklahoma Supreme Court

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In a disheartening decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court recently dismissed a lawsuit seeking reparations for the last remaining survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. This setback highlights the ongoing struggle for justice and recognition for one of the most horrific acts of racial violence in American history.

Responding to what is seen by the black community as injustice, Black Wall Street Times Editor-in-Chief, Nehemiah Frank, penned an open letter giving a voice to shared emotions on the issue. He wrote, “While I am not related to Mother Fletcher and Mother Randle, as a descendant of a family that survived the Massacre and someone who traveled with the survivors along with other descendants to witness their testimonies before Congress, I can empathize with them. We feel the collective harm widely.” 

“When they cried while delivering their historical testimonies on Capitol Hill, everyone in the audience and I cried, too. That is the only time I’ve seen them visibly upset. They had to reopen old wounds and revisit painful memories of the massacre and its impact on our beloved Greenwood community for the historic congressional record.”

Historical Background 

On May 31 and June 1, 1921, a violent white mob descended upon Greenwood, a thriving Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as “Black Wall Street.” Fueled by racial hatred, they destroyed over 1,000 homes and businesses, leaving the district in ruins. The official death toll remains controversial, but it is believed to be in the hundreds. The massacre not only resulted in immense loss of life but also decimated a prosperous Black neighborhood, leading to long-term economic and social repercussions.

The Lawsuit and Court’s Decision

The lawsuit was filed by survivors Lessie Benningfield Randle and Viola Fletcher, both over 100 years old, along with the estate of Hughes Van Ellis, who passed away last year at 102. They sought reparations under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, arguing that the massacre’s effects continue to harm the city, contributing to ongoing racial and economic disparities.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision, stating that the plaintiffs’ grievances, although legitimate, did not meet the criteria for a public nuisance under state law. The court also dismissed claims of unjust enrichment, further limiting the plaintiffs’ avenues for legal redress.

The Ongoing Fight for Justice

This recent ruling is not the first time survivors and their families have sought justice. They have been fighting for decades, underscoring the slow pace of progress in addressing historical injustices. The fight for reparations is not just about financial compensation; it is about holding local governments and institutions accountable for their roles in enabling such atrocities. Reparations are a recognition of the systemic racism that enabled this atrocity and a commitment to rebuilding and empowering the Black community in Greenwood.

Calls to Action

To keep the fight alive, it is crucial to educate ourselves and others about the Tulsa Race Massacre and its lasting impacts. Supporting advocacy organizations such as the Justice For Greenwood Campaign and The Black Wall Street Times through donations and volunteering can help sustain their vital work. Additionally, demanding action from local and state representatives to support legislation addressing historical injustices is essential.

Nehemiah Frank, Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times

Emphasizing the importance of this cause, Frank wrote in his open letter, “For those of you who are thinking this case is just about money or making White people today pay for their ancestors’ crimes, you are woefully mistaken. This pursuit of justice for the victims, survivors, and even the descendants is about holding local governments and corrupted institutions accountable — governments that in the 1920s knowingly and proudly harbored Klansmen.

‘ “So, I leave you with this: “Let judgment rain down as a mighty stream,” upon all who played a role in the massacre and on all who deny justice to Mother Randle, Mother Fletcher and descendants.’


The dismissal of the reparations lawsuit by the Oklahoma Supreme Court is a significant setback, but it does not mark the end of the fight for justice. The resilience of the Tulsa Race Massacre survivors and their descendants continues to inspire and drive the movement forward. By standing in solidarity and taking action, we can help ensure that their struggle for recognition and reparations leads to a more just and equitable future. Silence in the face of such injustice is unacceptable, and we must amplify the voices of those demanding accountability to ensure this story isn’t relegated to dusty history books.

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