The lawsuit seeks reparations for three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which left dozens of Black Americans dead and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed.
An Oklahoma judge will allow a lawsuit seeking reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to proceed.
According to NBC News, the lawsuit was filed by a small group of Black survivors, all of whom are now over 100 years old. In a statement to media, Damario Solomon-Simmons—an attorney for the plaintiffs—signaled his belief that the ruing is historic in its scope.
“History was made today,” Solomon-Simmons said, adding that presiding Judge Caroline Wall of Tulsa County District Court will soon provide a written order expanding on her decision.
Wall, adds NBC News, is expected to grant a motion by defendants to dismiss part of the lawsuit.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit will be allowed to proceed—offering the promise of at least partial reparations to the Black survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which saw city officials hand out weapons to an all-White mob.
While the death toll has never been definitively confirmed, authorities believe that dozens of people—Black and White alike–were killed in the ensuing violence, as mobs laid siege to entire neighborhoods, looting and destroying Black-owned homes and businesses.
Solomon-Simmons says that he wants his clients—who range in age from 101 to 107 years old—to finally see justice, even after such significant delay.
“We want them to see justice in their lifetime,” he said in a press conference. “I’ve seen so many survivors die in my 20-plus years working on this issue.”
“I just don’t want to see the last three die without justice,” he said. “That’s why the time is of the essence.”
NBC News notes that Solomon-Simmons filed the lawsuit under Oklahoma’s “public nuisance” law, asserting that the actions of the all-White mob killed hundreds of Black Tulsans and effectively destroyed what was then among the most prosperous African-American business districts in the entire United States.
The lawsuit, which seeks reparations for the plaintiffs as well as their descendants, alleges that the Tulsa Race Massacre’s destruction of Black interests has effected consequences into the present-day.
Michael Swartz, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, told The New York Times that Judge Wall’s ruling is important on several fronts.
“The court’s ruling is incredibly important,” he said. “It means that, after 100 years, the three living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre will finally have an opportunity to hold the institutions who instigated, facilitated and brutally implemented one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in this country’s history accountable for their actions and to seek to repair the continuing harm done to their once thriving community.”