Black leaders in U.S. pledge to keep fighting for Tulsa race
TULSA, Oklahoma — Black leaders rallied Sunday on behalf of
survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, vowing to continue their
struggle for reparations.
Most of the 97 remaining survivors were young children when a white
mob torched the city’s prosperous black business district
known as Greenwood. The confirmed death toll was 37, but some estimate
up to 300 people died.
After losing several court battles seeking reparations, the survivors’
testimony will be used to push for federal reparations legislation
in Congress, said attorney Charles Ogletree.
He also filed a petition for a hearing before the Organization of
American States, a 34-nation organization whose commission examines
alleged human rights violations.
“When the nation sits idly by and doesn’t respond,”
Ogletree said, “it’s time to go to a higher court.”
The riot on May 31, 1921, began when police deputized the mob after
armed blacks and whites clashed outside a Tulsa courthouse where
a black man accused of assaulting a white woman was being held.
A 1921 grand jury exonerated whites for the destruction and blamed
“We just had to start over,” said survivor Wess Young,
who was among about 300 people who attended the Sunday rally in
a Tulsa church. “Back in those days, the Ku Klux Klan was
running almost everything. You would raise up, but they would defeat
Survivors and descendants of those who lost property or their lives
in the riot sued the City of Tulsa, police and the state for reparations
in 2003. But lower courts ruled the statute of limitations had run
out and the U.S. Supreme Court refused in May to hear their appeal.
“I know it has been a long haul, and I know you have told
this story over and over again,” said Rep. Maxine Waters,
a California Democrat. “This is our time. We can’t afford
to give up.”