Remembering survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre who never saw justice

by Kesean Cleveland
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May 31, 2022, marked the 101-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The Massacre took place in Tulsa’s Greenwood District and was the biggest display of anti-Blackness in U.S. history. The fires that destroyed homes and businesses would last until June 1, 1921.

Many who did not die from the fires were shot and killed as they tried to survive and protect their loved ones.

Today and every day we remember those who have lost their lives, as well as those that are still with us.

Last three living Tulsa Race Massacre survivors

Lessie Benningfield Randle, Hughes Van Ellis Sr. and Viola Fletcher are the last three known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Since September of 2020 the survivors have been included an ongoing lawsuit against the City of Tulsa and other entities for their role in the destruction of 36 square blocks of the Greenwood District, the destruction of over 1,200 homes, over 200 businesses, and the killings of 300 Black men, women and children.

The lead Attorney in the lawsuit is Damario Solomon-Simmons.

“We got a lot of work to do to prove. And we can prove it, we will prove it. But I appreciate her giving us the opportunity to show that we had the necessary information to move past a motion to dismiss,” Solomon-Simmons said in May.

Tulsa Massacre survivors accept $1 million donation from New York couple

The three last known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre receive a check for a collective $1 million on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 inside the Greenwood Cultural Center. (Mike Creef / The Black Wall Street Times)

Olivia Hooker

Olivia Hooker was a survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre. After the massacre, Hooker became one of four women to be a part of the first class of Black SPARS in February 1945.

SPARS is what the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Women’s Reserve were known as. SPARS is an acronym meaning “Semper Paratus—Always Ready”

Hooker also eventually testified in front of Congress in 2005, but sadly passed away at the age of 103 in 2018 before ever seeing justice.

Dr. Olivia Hooker, one of the last survivors of a race-related attack on a black section of Tulsa, Okla., in 1921, testified about the episode before members of the Congressional Black Caucus and others on Capitol Hill in 2005. With her were Otis Granville Clark, far left, another survivor of the violence, and Charles J. Ogletree Jr., lead counsel for the survivors.Credit…Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

George Monroe

George Monroe was a survivor of the massacre. Monroe was the first Black man in Tulsa to sell Coca-Cola. Monroe also played the drums for his band “The Rhythm Aces” which toured the Dallas area.

It is also said that Monroe opened George’s Sandwiches, Shoe Shine Parlor, and News Stand at 1005 North Greenwood Avenue at the age of 18.

George Monroe passed away at the age of 85 in 2001.

“I remember that as if it was yesterday,” George Monroe said. Gathering charred coins would help Monroe to bear witness. NMAAHC, gift of photographer Don Thompson, © Don Thompson

Hal Singer

Hal Singer was a survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Singer was an American jazz and R&B saxophonist and bandleader. He had a small group called “The Orioles” and the “Hal Singer Quintet”. Singer would go on to record the song “Corn Bread,” which made No. 1 on the R&B charts in September 1948.

Hal Singer passed away at the age of 100 in 2020.

Mary Jones Parrish

Mary E. Jones Parrish was a survivor of the massacre. Parrish would write a first-person account with collected eye-witness statements from dozens of other survivors and published them immediately following the tragedy. The book Parrish published would be titled “The Events of the Tulsa Disaster”.

A new edition was published in 2021 by Trinity University Press under the title, “The Nation Must Awake: My Witness to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921.” The new edition includes a new afterword by Anneliese M. Bruner, Parrish’s great-granddaughter.

These are just a few names of the people that have survived the Tulsa Race Massacre. This year and every year, we will remember those before us who have suffered unimaginable pain from this tragedy as the Greenwood community awaits justice in the ongoing public nuisance lawsuit.

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Remembering survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre who never saw justice | Minority News Network June 4, 2022 - 3:18 am

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