Ralliers back race riot suit
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Friday, February 13, 2004
1/20/13 at 8:09 AM
Supporters gather on
the eve of a key court
date in the case.
With tent-revival zeal, supporters of a lawsuit seeking damages
for Tulsa's 1921 Race Riot rallied
Thursday night on the eve of a
crucial day in court.
Chanting "Reparations now!"
and singing the Civil Rights
Movement anthems "We Shall
Overcome" and "Lift Every
Voice," they gathered at the
Greenwood Cultural Center with
the knowledge that a hearing
Friday before U.S. Senior District Judge James O. Ellison
could well determine their suit's
"Tomorrow is an historic day
for us," said Harvard University
law professor Charles Ogletree.
"Black Friday -- only we're going to make black beautiful."
Ogletree has assembled an all-star legal team, working pro bono, to press the claims of
nearly 400 plaintiffs who say
Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa
owe them for the death and destruction visited upon the all-black Greenwood District on
May 31 and June 1, 1921.
Friday's hearing is on separate
motions by the city and state to
dismiss the suit and on a motion
by the city to bar the evidence
and testimony of Dr. Eric Caine,
a University of Rochester psychiatry professor specializing in
post-traumatic stress disorder.
In this initial stage of the proceedings, Ellison will decide
whether black Tulsans were sufficiently intimidated and otherwise denied fair access to the
courts to justify allowing the
plaintiffs to bring suit eight decades after it normally would
have been barred by the statute
The plaintiffs contend that by
appointing a commission to examine the riot and accepting the
commission's findings in 2001,
the state restarted the clock on
Thursday night, Ogletree
urged lawsuit supporters to fill
Ellison's courtroom for the 9:30
a.m. hearing. He read the names
of survivors who have died since
the lawsuit was filed almost one
He also introduced members
of the legal team, including expert witnesses Al Brophy and
Leon Litwack, who along with
Caine and historian John Hope
Franklin are expected to give evidence Friday.
Also on hand Thursday night
was Chicago Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman. Through Tillman's
efforts, the city of Chicago now
requires all companies doing
business with it to disclose any
involvement in the slave trade.
"This wasn't a riot; it was a
massacre," Tillman said. "There
is no question you are going to
win that case."
A proponent of slavery reparations, Tillman said black Tulsans
suffer from "post-traumatic slavery syndrome."
"America's got to pay," she
said. "America owes you a debt."
Black Tulsans suffered losses
estimated at $1.5 million to $3
million in the riot. About three
dozen confirmed deaths have
been attributed to the riot, although most authorities believe
that the actual number was higher. Hundreds were injured, and
thousands were left homeless.
The riot began after whites
and blacks clashed at the Tulsa
County Courthouse, which was
then at Sixth Street and Boulder
Avenue. A young black man was
being held in the jail there on
an assault charge.
Several hundred lawsuits were
filed by black and white property
owners following the riot. None
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365
Tulsa Race Riot survivor Roanna McClure (center) puts her sign down at a candlelight vigil in support of the Tulsa Race Riot lawsuit at the Greenwood Cultural Center on Thursday evening.