Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle was around six years old when an angry white mob led the charge to enact a murderous race riot, aiming to stomp out a Black business district in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Now almost 100 years later, Randle is the lead figure in a lawsuit that demands reparations for the emotional and physical damage caused by the destruction of the city’s Black business district, CNN reports. She is one of the last living survivors of that fateful day.
The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court, which includes the plaintiffs Vernon A.M.E. Church, which was the only black-owned building to survive the massacre, along with the Tulsa African Ancestral Society.
“Greenwood and North Tulsa Community residents continue to face racially disparate treatment and City-created barriers to basic human needs, including jobs, financial security, education, housing, justice, and health,” the suit states.
The imagery has undoubtedly stayed with Randle, who saw her grandmother’s home robbed and looted in the massacre.
“She experiences flashbacks of Black bodies that were stacked up on the street as her neighborhood was burning, causing her to constantly relive the terror of May 31 and June 1, 1921,” the lawsuit said. Randle has suffered from poor health, but an attorney in the case told CNN that she was “upbeat and encouraged” after the suit was filed.
While the suit does not call for an exact dollar amount, it aims for the survivors and their descendants s to be properly compensated for the financial damage which resulted in a loss of economic equity. The suit also requires the creation of a compensation fund for victims, mental health education programs for survivors and descendants, and a college fund for descendants of the massacre. Lastly, the suit asks local officials to build a hospital in the community and asks that Black residents from Greenwood and North Tulsa have priority consideration for city contracts.
The Tulsa Massacre has received more attention in the last year after HBO’s hit show Watchmen profiled the massacre in a stirring episode. Tulsa was also the center of attention after Trump hosted a rally in June directly after the annual celebration of Juneteenth.
The massacre began after a 19-year-old Black man named Dick Rowland was accused of assaulting a 17-year-old white girl named Sarah Page in the elevator of a community building. Rowland was later acquitted.
A white mob with the assistance of local law enforcement was able to wreck havoc on the thriving local black community in Greenwood. “The death toll may have been as high as 300, with hundreds more injured and an estimated 8,000 or more left homeless,” The New York Times writes.