Human Rights Watch Report Calls on Officials to Make Reparations for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Jun 3, 2020

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A report by international advocacy group Human Rights Watch says state and local officials should make reparations for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

The group said they should base a reparations plan on measures recommended in the 2001 "Tulsa Race Riot Commission" report, including direct payments. Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons said during a discussion of the report determining what is owed will be difficult.

"We’re looking at between $50 million and $100 million just in property damage. Let me say that again - $50 to $100 million just in property damage. But how much is a life worth? How much is a life worth? They say conservatively it may be around 300 people were killed. How much is a life worth?" Solomon-Simmons said.

Besides a comprehensive plan involving a range of possible benefits, from economic development investments in north Tulsa to housing subsidies, Human Rights Watch recommended state lawmakers nullify a statute of limitations on civil claims related to the massacre.

Human Rights Watch said reparations should also involve immediate compensation and apologies to Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle, centenarians who are the last known survivors of the attacks that destroyed Greenwood.

Community activist Kristi Williams said reparations are needed to address harms from the massacre and from discriminatory policies that led to a rebuilt Greenwood’s decline years later.

"Imagine what we did without reparations and what we can do with reparations. We talk about healing as a people, and I think that’s important. But I also believe we’re not even going to get there until we get what is owed to us," Williams said.

Human Rights Watch noted several instances in which state and local officials blocked restoration efforts for black Tulsans in north Tulsa.