November 3 , 2005 – Vol. 41, No. 12

Black leaders in U.S. pledge to keep fighting for Tulsa race riot

Kelly Kurt

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 blacks.

“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 you.”

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.”

(Associated Press)






Back to Top

Editorial Roving CameraNews NotesNews DigestCommunity Calendar
Arts & EntertainmentAround TownBoston ScenesBillboard
Contact UsSubscribeLinksAdvertisingEditorial ArchivesStory Archives
Young ProfessionalsJOBS