Congressman Cohen Presides at Hearing on the Centenary of the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Massacre

May 19, 2021
Press Release
Witnesses seeking justice include survivors 107-, 106- and 100-years old

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, today presided at a historic hearing entitled “Continuing Injustice: The Centennial of the Tulsa-Greenwood Race Massacre.” The hearing featured three survivors of the May 31 – June 1, 1921 massacre that destroyed the Black Greenwood section of Tulsa, a prosperous community known as “the Black Wall Street.” One survivor, 106-year-old Lessie Beddingfield Randle, told the panel: “I have waited so long for justice.”

In his opening remarks, Chairman Cohen said in part:

“Our hearing today serves two primary purposes.  First, it is a commemoration of a milestone anniversary, the centenary of the Tulsa-Greenwood Race Massacre of 1921, one of the most painful episodes in our Nation’s long and tortured history of race relations.  Sadly, many Americans today are not even aware that this Massacre took place, and I hope that this hearing can serve to educate the public about what happened.

“The second purpose is to highlight the many ways that the Black community of Tulsa continues to suffer from the effects of the Massacre.  Indeed, as the hearing’s title suggests, the injuries inflicted on the Greenwood community have continued to compound through the succeeding decades since the Massacre, often directly because of actions taken by government officials…

“The Massacre has exacerbated government actions that, over the decades, have disproportionately burdened Black Tulsans, preventing many from rebuilding their community and regaining stolen wealth.  Predictably, this has led to racial disparities and adverse outcomes for the Black residents of Tulsa today. …

“This Subcommittee has jurisdiction over such compensation funds.  For example, last Congress, we held a hearing to permanently reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which one of our witnesses suggests as a model for compensating potential Tulsa claimants.  I would be interested in hearing from our witnesses more details as to how such a fund would be structured and funded.

“As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I pledge to work with you on legislation on this front.”

See the entire opening statement here.

See Chairman Cohen’s questioning of witnesses here.

See the entire hearing at Judiciary.House.gov.

Witnesses at today’s hearing included:

  • Mr. Chief Egunwale Amusan,
    President of the Tulsa African Ancestral Society and Descendant of the Massacre;
  • Ms. Lessie Benningfield Randle,
    Tulsa Race Massacre Survivor;
  • Dr. Tiffany Crutcher,
    Founder and Executive Director, Terence Crutcher Foundation;
  • Ms. Viola Fletcher,
    Oldest Living Survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre;
  • The Honorable Regina Goodwin,
    Oklahoma State Representative and Descendant of the Massacre;
  • Ms. Dreisen Heath,
    Researcher and Advocate, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch;
  • Mr. Clarence Henderson,
    National Spokesman, Frederick Douglass Foundation;
  • Mr. Eric Miller,
    Professor of Law and Leo J. O’Brien Fellow Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University;
  • Mr. T.W. Shannon,
    Chief Executive Officer, Chickasaw Community Bank and Former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives;
  • Mr. Damario Solomon-Simmons,
    Founder and Executive Director, Justice for Greenwood;
  • Mr. Hughes Van Ellis,
    Tulsa Race Massacre Survivor and World War II Veteran.

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