Oklahoma Supreme Court Tells Black Wall Street Survivors, No Reparations For You!

Last Chance Dies For Remaining Survivors of the 1921 Massacre

William Spivey
3 min readJun 12, 2024

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By Alvin C. Krupnick — Library of CongressCatalog: https://lccn.loc.gov/95519929Image download: https://cdn.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3b30000/3b33000/3b33400/3b33447r.jpgOriginal url: https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/95519929/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68177916

In the judicial equivalent of “thoughts and prayers,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court acknowledged the harm done to the Black citizens of Tulsa during and after the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre. They pointed to actions taken by state and local officials that caused harm, yet the plaintiffs weren’t entitled to relief.

“Even after the initial violence subsided, local officials engaged in actions that exacerbated the harm. State and local officials participated in the mass arrests and detention of Greenwood residents, and black detainees could only be released upon the application of a white person. Though Plaintiffs’ grievances are legitimate, they do not fall within the scope of our State’s public nuisance statute.” — Oklahoma State Supreme Court opinion

Lawmakers and courts nationwide have long refused to provide most anything considered reparations because those making the claim weren’t the original victims. Descendants of enslaved people, for example, couldn’t demonstrate direct harm to the satisfaction of those in control of the process. Some of the survivors of Japanese internment camps received $20,000, while their descendants got nothing.

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