TULSA, Okla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–In a major step forward for the historic Tulsa Race Massacre lawsuit, a 76-page amended petition has been filed in the suit, adding two previously-unknown living survivors of the Massacre, among other significant developments. The team filing the amended petition is led by Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons of SolomonSimmonsLaw, and consists of a group of leading civil and human rights lawyers, as well as lawyers from New York-based law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel (SRZ).
The lawsuit demands that the City of Tulsa and other defendants fix the public nuisance they caused by their destruction of the Black community of Greenwood in 1921, their continuing failure to rebuild the community and their audacity in seeking to reap benefits from their violent acts.
From May 31 through June 1, 1921, a large White mob, including members of the Tulsa Police Department, the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department and the Oklahoma National Guard, as well as other city and county leaders, destroyed the approximately 40-square-block Black community, killing hundreds of Black residents, injuring thousands more, burning down over one-thousand homes and businesses, and stealing residents’ personal property worth an estimated $50-100 million.
Highlights of the amended petition include:
- The addition of two previously-unknown living survivors of the Massacre, 106-year-old Viola Fletcher (“Mother Fletcher”) of Bartlesville, Oklahoma and 100-year-old Hughes Van Ellis of Denver, Colorado. With the addition of Mother Fletcher and Mr. Ellis, all three known living survivors of the Massacre are now fighting for justice for Greenwood.
- Admissions from the defendants that the Massacre continues to harm Black Tulsans, including the City of Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s statement that in “Tulsa, the racial and economic disparities that still exist today can be traced to the 1921 race massacre.”
- The formal entry of appearance of several lawyers from the leading New York-based law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP who have joined the legal team representing the plaintiffs.
- The suit’s lead plaintiffs, 106-year-old Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle and Mother Fletcher provided the first-ever depositions regarding the massacre. Both women testified that they continue to experience flashbacks of Black bodies stacked up on the street as their community was burning. The massacre left both of their families, as well as Mr. Ellis’ family, without sufficient resources to provide the needed physical and emotional support to overcome the terror of the violent incident.
In addition to Solomon-Simmons, the plaintiffs are represented by attorneys, J. Spencer Bryan and Steven Terrill of BryanTerrill, P.C.; Professor Eric Miller of Loyola Marymount College of Law; Maynard M. Henry, Sr., Lashandra Peoples-Johnson and Cordal Cephas of Johnson Cephas Law PLLC; and Michael Swartz, Sara Solfanelli, McKenzie Haynes, Oscar Saunders, John Garces, Ekenedilichukwu (Keni) Ukabiala, Angela Garcia, AnnaLise Bender-Brown and Victoria Harris of SRZ.
The legal team will also work with Mr. Solomon-Simmons’ partners from the human rights community, including Human Rights Watch, which in May 2020 published a groundbreaking report documenting the impact of the Tulsa Race Massacre and the systemic racism that followed, and called for reparations.