In 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma was engulfed in a race riot that destroyed their prosperous Black district. A century later, Lessie Benningfield Randle has joined a lawsuit seeking reparations for affected survivors like her.
She discussed her recollection of the terrible incident and aftermath for the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program:
As many as 300 African American residents were slaughtered when white mobs descended on Tulsa’s Greenwood district. Hundreds of homes and businesses were looted and torched, reducing much of the 35-square-block section of the city, commonly referred to as Black Wall Street, to rubble.
A commission that studied the event decades later found the massacre was sparked by an incident in an elevator. It said that a Black man named Dick Rowland probably accidentally stepped on the foot of a white woman, Sarah Page, who screamed. Rowland fled, according to the 2001 report, but was accused of sexual assault and eventually jailed.
White mobs gathered outside the Tulsa County Courthouse demanding Rowland be released to them and there was “lynch talk in the streets of Tulsa,” the report said. The bloodshed started soon afterward.
Also joining the lawsuit is Historic Vernon A.M.E. Church, “the only standing black-owned structure from the Historic Black Wall Street era and the only edifice that remains from the worst race massacre in American history. To this day, Vernon A.M.E Church remains a visual reminder of the Massacre and the reconstruction process.”
Good luck to all involved!
Image: YouTube / Oklahoma Oral History Research Program