House Bill Seeks Redress for Victims of 1921 Tulsa Race Riots

On April 24, 2007, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties held a hearing on H.R. 1995, the “Tulsa-Greenwood Riot and Accountability Act of 2007.” The bill extends the statute of limitation to allow survivors to seek damages for losses incurred by the hundreds of families who lost homes and businesses in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.

During the race riots, which occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma from May 30—June 1, 1921, nearly 300 African-Americans were killed, and an estimated 1,250 African-American homes and businesses were destroyed. Attempts by African-Americans to seek legal redress for their injuries have been stymied, despite a recommendation in the Report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 that reparations be paid to the survivors or descendants of the survivors. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case on appeal seeking to suspend the statute of limitations and allow the remaining survivors to have their day in court.

One of the witnesses at the hearing was historian Professor John Hope Franklin, whose father was a lawyer in Tulsa at the time of the riots. Professor Franklin has long been one of the leading advocates for the victims of the race riots. The subcommittee also heard testimony from 92-year old Dr. Olivia Hooker, who was six at time of the riots. Also testifying was Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, who is lead counsel for a group of African-Americans who resided in Tulsa in 1921.

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