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“I have lived through the massacre every day”: Tulsa race massacre survivors testify before House committee

Washington — The last known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre are calling on Congress to consider paying reparations for the continued damage done to their Oklahoma community.  

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties on Wednesday heard testimony from three centenarians about a violent mob’s riot 100 years ago through  the thriving Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, known at the time as “Black Wall Street.”  

“I still see Black men being shot, black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams,” said Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the event. “I have lived through the massacre every day.” 

Although the Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics originally recorded only 36 deaths after the event, a 2001 state commission estimated the number to be between 75 and 300.  

That 2001 commission recommended that reparations be paid to the Greenwood community, but 20 years later, survivors of the massacre and their descendants have not received any direct compensation for the event’s effect on their lives.

“I have survived 100 years of painful memories and losses,” said Lessie Benningfield Randle, one of the survivors. “I have survived to tell this story. I believe that I am still here to share it with you. Hopefully, now you all will listen to us while we are still here.”

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