Their Call For Tulsa Reparations Was Dismissed, But The Fight Continues

aftermath of tulsa massacre
Zain Murdock
June 25, 2024

On May 31, 1921, the Tulsa Race Massacre began. On June 12, 2024, the Oklahoma Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the massacre’s two remaining survivors:  Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle. But Randle didn’t just need reparations for two days of white supremacist terror. Anti-Blackness in Tulsa changed the trajectory of her life.

One hundred and three years ago, six-year-old Randle fled as 35 blocks of her neighborhood went up in flames. White supremacists looted and destroyed her home. Three hundred Black Tulsans were killed and their bodies left in the street. Eight thousand people were unhoused. The National Guard forced thousands of survivors into internment camps. Randle still suffers from the flashbacks.

Still, she stayed in Greenwood, or “Black Wall Street.” But in 1980, Randle was displaced from yet another home. Tulsa’s Urban Renewal program stole her family home for “development.” Then, 2020 brought a storm of grief, rage, uprising, and hope. She joined survivors in suing the city.

But Oklahoma’s decision to deny Randle’s story proves that calls for reparations aren’t illegitimate — these systems are.

A legal system built on massacring us won’t side with us in court. But victories like land redistribution, direct payments, social service benefits, prison abolition, participatory budgeting, and more aren’t impossible. If we stretch our imaginations and organization, we can pave other avenues for the future that Randle, Fletcher, and all our ancestors deserved.