TULSA, Okla. — Survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre held a press conference Tuesday to announce a lawsuit against those who were involved in the tragedy, including the city of Tulsa.
Justice for Greenwood Advocates, a team of civil and human rights lawyers led by Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon Simmons, is asking the city and other defendants to repair the damage they did in causing a public nuisance by their destruction of Greenwood in 1921, according to a press release.
The suit’s lead plaintiff is Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, 105, and is one of the two known Massacre survivors still living.
Randle said she continues to experience flashbacks of bodies stacked up on the street as her neighborhood was burning.
Other plaintiffs include:
- Vernon A.M.E., the only standing Black-owned structure from the Historic Black Wall Street era and the only edifice that remains from the Massacre;
- Laurel Stradford, great-granddaughter of J.B. Stradford who owned the Stradford Hotel in Greenwood, the largest Black-owned hotel in the United States at the time of the Massacre;
- Ellouise Cochrane-Price, the daughter of Massacre survivor Clarence Rowland and the cousin of Massacre victim Dick Rowland;
- Tedra Williams, the granddaughter of Massacre survivor Wess Young;
- Don M. Adams, the nephew of Massacre victim Dr. A.C. Jackson;
- Don W. Adams, great-grandson of Massacre survivor Attorney H.A. Guess;
- Stephen Williams, grandson of Massacre victim Attorney A.J. Smitherman who owned the nationally circulated Tulsa Star Newspaper;
- The Tulsa African Ancestral Society, whose membership includes descendants of Massacre survivors.
The lawsuit identifies seven defendants who have contributed to the public nuisance and unjustly enriched themselves at the expense of the Black citizens of Tulsa and the survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
The Oklahoma National Guard‘s Office of Public Affairs released the following statement in response to the lawsuit on Monday:
“There are widely varying accounts of the role played by the National Guard during the events of late May and early June 1921 in the Greenwood District. However, the historical record shows that a handful of Guardsmen protected the Tulsa armory and the weapons inside from more than 300 rioters. The actions of these Guardsmen substantially reduced the number of deaths in the Greenwood District. In the days following the riots, Oklahoma Guardsmen restored order to the area and prevented further attacks by both black and white Tulsans. Due to pending litigation, the Oklahoma National Guard will offer no further comment on this subject.”— Oklahoma National Guard
Cox Media Group