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This article has been updated with a statement from Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.
GREENWOOD Dist.–“Mother” Viola Ford Fletcher, the oldest known living survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, turned 109 on Wednesday, the same day the city of Tulsa is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Fletcher and two other living survivors for the century-old crime.
Fletcher (109), “Mother” Lessie Benningfield Randle (108) and “Uncle Redd” Hughes Van Ellis (102) are plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking restitution for the destruction of over 35 square blocks of the Greenwood District, home to the original Black Wall Street, and the killings of hundreds of Black men, women and children.
“I will never forget the violence of the White mob when we left our home,” Fletcher testified to Congress in 2021. “I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street, I still smell smoke and see fire.”
Civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons, who leads the Justice for Greenwood organization, represents the plaintiffs. He’s using a public nuisance statute in Oklahoma law to argue that the city has never abated or corrected the harm done when Tulsa deputized a white mob to burn, bomb, pillage and murder residents of the wealthiest Black district in the nation.
For the fourth time, city attorneys will argue that the lawsuit should be dismissed without going to trial at 10:30 a.m. in front of Tulsa County District Judge Caroline Wall in room 706 of the Tulsa County Courthouse.
A year ago, the three living survivors huddled into the same tightly packed courtroom when Judge Wall made the historic decision to allow the case to proceed.
“Mother” Fletcher wants justice as city seeks dismissal of Tulsa Massacre lawsuit
The lawsuit names the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, the Oklahoma National Guard, and other entities as defendants. It accuses them of being responsible for the loss of life, property, and generational wealth perpetuated against the Black community of Historic Greenwood.
For over 20 years, a state report on the Massacre has listed several recommendations for reparations to the survivors and descendants, including scholarships and direct compensation.
Yet none of those recommendations have been honored.
“May 10th is critical — moving this case forward is essential for the families and victims of the massacre and racial Justice nationwide,” attorney Solomon-Simmons posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
Immediately after the massacre, residents of Greenwood filed claims with insurance companies, yet the companies used a riot clause to deny them. To date, Solomon-Simons’ lawsuit marks the closest the survivors have ever been to receiving restitution.
Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped communities across the globe from supporting the three elders. Last year a New York couple donated $1 million to the survivors, and a year earlier, local megachurch Transformation Church also donated $1 million. Yet the city of Tulsa, despite making an official apology during the 100-year anniversary of the massacre, has never claimed liability for its role in the racial domestic terror attack.
The Black Wall Street Times has reached out to the city of Tulsa for a statement.
Michelle Brooks, Communications Director for the City of Tulsa, sent the following statement:
“On behalf of the city of Tulsa, Mayor Bynum extends his heartfelt wishes to Viola Fletcher on her remarkable 109th birthday. A survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Viola Fletcher has lived to share her story with people around the world more than a century after the worst event in Tulsa history.”