Lessie Benningfield Randle, a 105-year old Black woman from Tulsa, Oklahoma, one of two known survivors of the tragic Tulsa massacre that is still alive, has filed a lawsuit demanding reparations. She alleges that the act of racial violence is still haunting the community after almost 100 years.
Randle leads the lawsuit claiming she still experiences flashbacks of the burning streets filled with staked up bodies, according to her attorneys.
As a child, Randle witnessed the race massacre that occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921. Around 300 Black people were killed by a white mob, allegedly backed by local authorities and police, who burned down a thriving black neighborhood.
The great-granddaughter of JB Stradford, who owned the Stradford Hotel which is the largest black-owned hotel in the US at that time, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accuses the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, the then serving sheriff of Tulsa County, the Oklahoma national guard, and Tulsa regional chamber of being directly involved in the massacre and having “unjustly enriched themselves at the expense of the black citizens of Tulsa and the survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre.”
Damario Solomon-Simmons, part of a team of attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said that the events in 1921 served as a factor in the problems Black people in Tulsa face. In Tulsa, 34% of black people live in poverty, in comparison to 13% of white people, according to Human Rights Watch.
For decades, the survivors of the massacre fought for justice. In 2001, it was found that the city indeed conspired with white citizens against Black residents. Direct payments to survivors and descendants were then suggested but no payments were ever made and they were only given a medal by the city.
Moreover, a renewed outrage sparked after Donald Trump set a campaign rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth, intended to commemorate the end of slavery in the US. Since it drew negative feedback, Trump moved the rally on the next day.