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Tulsa massacre survivor, residents push to boost Black community’s prominence, a century after killings


(TULSA, Okla.) — More than 100 years after many of Tulsa’s Black residents were killed and their businesses were destroyed by white rioters, the community, including a woman who survived the massacre, is still finding ways to rebuild and seek justice.

Between May 31 and June 1, 1921, white Tulsa residents set fire and bombed several square blocks of the city, including Greenwood District, which was known as Black Wall Street because of its successful shops and businesses owned by Tulsa’s Black residents.

An estimated 300 Black residents were killed and thousands were left homeless after the Tulsa massacre, according to historians.

Alicia Odewale, a professor of archeology at the University of Tulsa, is leading a project to dig up Greenwood’s past and told GMA 3’s DeMarco Morgan, a Tulsa native, that she’s already made some shocking discoveries.

“We found bullets and barbed wire next to doll parts next to lined up toys, next to marbles,” she said. “They tried to wipe out families and children.”

“The artifacts are bearing witness to things that we don’t have in our history books,” she added.

Tiffany Crutcher, an activist, said she’s been working to raise awareness of what happened and fight for justice. She has traveled to Congress with survivors and their families on multiple occasions to ensure that their stories are never forgotten.

“They sat there saying, ‘We believe we deserve justice. We still believe in America,’ even though they’ve been through the worst times,” Crutcher said.

In July, an Oklahoma judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by survivors and their families that sought reparations for the massacre. The decision has been appealed by the plaintiff’s attorneys.

After last week’s passing of Hughes Van Ellis at 102, Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, and Viola Fletcher, 109, are now the last of two living survivors.

Lawanna Penny, Randle’s granddaughter, said she promised her grandmother that even though the reparations suit has been dismissed, she and others wouldn’t stop fighting for justice.

“I told her, ‘We’re not going anywhere,’ she said. “We want to leave a legacy for her to build up North Tulsa, build it up back the way it used to be.”

Randle turns 109 next month and she told GMA 3 that she has one wish.

“I would like to see all of my people here…trying to make the situation better,” she said. “Bring some of those things to life so people will know that it’s really is true, because there’s room for a lot more improvement.”

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