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Tulsa's 1921 Race Massacre Survivors Vow To Stay Alive 'Until They Get Justice'

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Tulsa's 1921 Race Massacre Survivors Vow To Stay Alive 'Until They Get Justice'

One of the survivors of 1921’s Tulsa Race Massacre has vowed to live to 130 so he can witness reparations for what is widely considered one of the worst single events of white supremacist violence against African Americans.

Hughes ‘Uncle Red’ Van Ellis, 101, is one of only three remaining survivors and insists he’ll live ‘as long as it takes’ to get restitution.

Earlier this month, an Oklahoma judge ruled that a lawsuit seeking reparations for the deadly rampage can proceed despite objections that ‘too much time has passed’ since the massacre. 

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Hughes Van Ellis, 101, is one of only three remaining survivors. Credit: Alamy
Hughes Van Ellis, 101, is one of only three remaining survivors. Credit: Alamy

Over two days hours from 31 May 1921, white Tulsans destroyed 35 blocks in the Greenwood neighbourhood of the Oklahoma city and shot any Black person they came across on sight.

At the time, Greenwood was dubbed ‘Black Wall Street’ due to it being one of the country’s most thriving Black business districts.

Now, the three remaining survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre - all over 100 - have been granted fresh hope for justice. 

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Speaking to Yahoo News, the survivors’ civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said: “Uncle Red told me with all sincerity and seriousness, he's gonna live to 130.”

He added: “This has never happened [before]. There've been many, many, many attempts. Over a hundred lawsuits or so have been filed in the past, and we got to the next stage. We survived a motion to dismiss at this point.”

More than two dozen lawyers including Solomon-Simmons were able to sue under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law and claim the horrific destruction unleashed by a white mob more than 100 years ago continues to affect the Greenwood community to this day.

The Tulsa Race Massacre took place in 1921. Credit: Alamy
The Tulsa Race Massacre took place in 1921. Credit: Alamy
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They demand defendants set up a fund for survivors and descendants of the massacre - in which 300 men, women and children were murdered - who they argue continue to live with its damaging effects.

Of the ruling, Van Ellis told CNN: "I've never seen nothing like this happen. It's going to make people think. It's going to be better for everybody.”

However the case’s seven defendants - the city of Tulsa, the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Tulsa development authority, the Tulsa Metro Area Planning Commission, the Board of County Commissioners for Tulsa County, the sheriff in his official capacity and the Oklahoma military department - are arguing that despite the 1921 being tragic, officials shouldn’t have to atone for the events in the present day. 

UNILAD has approached representatives for the city of Tulsa for comment.

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If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Racism, US News

Aisha Nozari
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