Three Survivors of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Receive $1 Million Donation from New York Philanthropist

Ed Mitzen, top left, and his staff at the nonprofit Business for Good, met the Tulsa race massacre survivors Viola Fletcher, 108, Hughes “Uncle Red” Van Ellis, 101, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, on May 18, 2022 in Tulsa.

As the last living survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre continue their fight for reparations, a New York philanthropist gifted them $1 million hoping it begins to account for the wrongs they have faced.

Ed Mitzen, co-founder of the New York-based nonprofit Business for Good, presented the donation to Viola Fletcher, 108, Lessie Benningfield Randle, 107, and Hughes Van Ellis, 101, at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa on Wednesday.

“We made this donation directly to the family so that we could help make their lives a little bit easier. And also to tell them that people do care and that their struggle matters,” Mitzen, 54, told CNN.

The centenarians were young children when White Tulsans formed a lynch mob in 1921 and attacked the Greenwood District, a thriving Black hub of commerce and home to multiple millionaires. Hundreds of Black people were killed, businesses were looted and the neighborhood was turned into ashes. Historical photos show bodies of Black residents lying in the streets.

In recent years, there have been a number of efforts to raise awareness about the massacre. It became a plot line in two popular TV shows — HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” and “Watchmen” — and Fletcher testified in Congress to ask the country to officially acknowledge the massacre. (CNN and HBO have the same parent company.)

Mitzen, who said he was not aware of the massacre until a few years ago, said he and his wife Lisa decided to make the donation after reading news coverage about the ongoing lawsuit brought up by survivors against the city of Tulsa. The case seeks to set the record straight on what took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921, and create a special fund for survivors and descendants of the massacre.

Earlier this month, a Tulsa judge rejected a request to dismiss the lawsuit, which their attorney has said is potentially their last chance to get some semblance of justice due to their old age.

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SOURCE: CNN, Nicole Chavez