Survivors of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre to Appear Before Oklahoma Supreme Court As Historic Case Hangs in the Balance

On April 2, State’s High Court to consider whether the survivors, both 109, can continue their fight for justice

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.--()--The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 2 in a case brought by the two last known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Nine justices will determine whether the Survivors can be blocked from seeking justice for one of the worst racial incidents in US history. The highly anticipated decision could have far-reaching implications for all Oklahomans who've suffered rights violations, with the potential to either uphold everyday people’s access to the civil court system, or curtail it significantly.

Lessie Benningfield Randle and Viola Ford Fletcher, both 109, continue to make history by pressing on with their lawsuit against the City of Tulsa and other institutions that played a direct role in carrying out the massacre, which left hundreds of Black people dead and one of the country’s most affluent Black communities in ruins. They are hoping that the state’s Supreme Court will swiftly direct the Tulsa District Court to move the case forward – thereby giving them a shot at seeing justice during their lifetime.

“We are grateful that our now-weary bodies have held on long enough to witness an America, and an Oklahoma, that provides Race Massacre survivors with the opportunity to access the legal system,” Randle and Fletcher said in a joint statement. “Many have come before us who have knocked and banged on the courthouse doors only to be turned around or never let through the door.”

“Now, our pursuit of justice rests in the hands of our Oklahoma Supreme Court. They have the power to open the doors of justice and give us the opportunity to prove our case.”

The lawsuit, filed in 2021 under Oklahoma’s public nuisance law, cleared historic legal hurdles and sparked hope that, for the first time in over a century, the massacre’s perpetrators would be brought to trial.

In August, the decision by a Tulsa district judge to dismiss the Survivors’ lawsuit on dubious procedural grounds sent shockwaves across the country. However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court quickly revived the case, agreeing to consider the Survivors’ argument that they were being held to a standard that no other plaintiff in Oklahoma is required to meet.

“It breaks my heart that even after suffering through a state-sponsored atrocity and its demoralizing aftermath, the last two Tulsa Race Massacre survivors are devoting the fleeting time they have left to a battle that the defendants hope will break their spirits,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons, lead attorney for the survivors. “But the City of Tulsa’s shameful plan will not work.”

“To be clear, the fight facing Mother Fletcher and Mother Randle is about more than just Black Wall Street. It is about the right of every person in Oklahoma to be rest assured that if they are ever abused, swindled, or exploited, they will have a reasonable chance to prove their case in court. This is what every American deserves, and it's what the City of Tulsa, one of the main culprits behind the Tulsa Race Massacre, is trying to take away. I look forward to the Oklahoma Supreme Court hearing our arguments, and pray that they uphold the rights of my clients, and all victims in the state, by swiftly directing District Judge Caroline Wall to proceed with the case.”

"We look forward to the opportunity to explain to the court why our clients have met Oklahoma’s pleading requirements and why the case should continue expeditiously in the trial court.” said Michael Swartz, Partner at Schulte Roth & Zabel, co-counsel on the case representing the two remaining survivors. “The defendants are asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to hold Mother Randle and Mother Fletcher to a higher pleading standard than any other plaintiff who seeks justice in Oklahoma courts, which would be a grave injustice.”

If the justices find that the survivors did not meet the pleading standard and uphold the Tulsa District Court’s dismissal, the decision could fundamentally change Oklahoma’s pleading standard for all future plaintiffs. Such a holding would make it harder for any victim in the state to move a lawsuit forward.

Further, if the justices delay in making a decision, the April 2 hearing could be the survivors’ final courtroom appearance while they’re still alive. Hughes "Uncle Red" Van Ellis, who was the youngest of the remaining massacre survivors at 102, died in October. In 2021, he participated in a Congressional hearing, where he made the tearful plea: “Please do not let me leave this earth without justice.”

Ellis’ sister, Viola Fletcher, turns 110 on May 10.

Justices will hear oral arguments April 2 at 1:30pm CST/2:30 EST at the Oklahoma State Capitol (2300 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK), in the Supreme Court Room on the 2nd Floor.

The hearing will be open to the public and live streamed at

Media interested in interviews should contact:
Gerry Johnson

Mike Goodwin

Sneha Satish


The Tulsa Race Massacre took place in 1921 when a mob of white individuals, deputized and armed by municipal and county officials, killed, looted, and burned down the Greenwood area. The Massacre resulted in the murder of more than 300 Tulsans and the destruction of the prosperous Greenwood neighborhood, often referred to as “Black Wall Street.”


Greenwood, most revered for “Black Wall Street” was co-founded by Black Creeks—it became one of the most prosperous, organized, and successful Black communities in United States history, and a place for Black people to escape the political, economic, and social oppression of southern lawmakers post-civil war.


Justice for Greenwood is a grassroots, 501(c)(3) organization with a big vision: to get Respect, Reparations, and Repair for the Greenwood community for the near century of historical omissions and continued harm caused by the 1921 Massacre, through survivor and descendant support, public education, and advocacy.


With a firm focus on private capital, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP ("Schulte") comprises legal advisers and commercial problem-solvers who combine exceptional experience, industry insight, integrated intelligence and commercial creativity to help clients raise and invest assets and protect and expand their businesses. The firm has a long history as a leader in pro bono legal work and a legacy of contributing to the greater good. Schulte embraces its professional and moral obligations to seek justice through the legal system. The firm directly represents and empowers the most vulnerable and marginalized; brings impact litigation to fuel social change; and supports social entrepreneurs to form the next generation of mission-driven organizations that will advocate for the underserved.


Damario Solomon-Simmons and Kym Heckenkemper of Solomon Simmons Law; J. Spencer Bryan and Steven Terrill of BryanTerrill, P.C.; Professor Eric Miller of Loyola Marymount College of Law; Maynard M. Henry, Sr.; Lashandra Peoples-Johnson and Cordal Cephas of Johnson Cephas Law PLLC; Michael Swartz, Randall Adams, Sara Solfanelli, McKenzie Haynes, Erika Simonson, Lea Dyce, Sedinam Anyidoho, Alex Mason-Pazmiño and Ben Lewson of Schulte; Tiffany Cross (American television personality, political analyst, and author); Gerry Johnson (Human Rights Watch); Dr. Tiffany Crutcher (Executive Director and Founder, Terence Crutcher Foundation); and Cassidy Fallik (ACLU OK).


Gerry Johnson,; Michael Goodwin,; Sneha Satish,


Gerry Johnson,; Michael Goodwin,; Sneha Satish,