Special to The Truth
Hughes “Uncle Redd” Van Ellis, one of the three remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, died last week at age 102. He was known for his efforts to pursue justice and reparations on behalf of the survivors of the worst incident of racial violence in American history, along with his sister, Viola Fletcher, 109, and fellow living survivor, Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108.
“He was a partner in the quest for justice and reparations,” Demario Solomon-Simmons, the survivors’ attorney, said in a statement. “He was a source of inspiration and strength during times of doubt and despair.”
When the massacre happened, Ellis was six-months-old. He and his family escaped with nothing but their lives. As Ellis testified before Congress in May 2021, “My family was driven from our home. We were left with nothing. We were made refugees in our own country.”
In July, the Tulsa County District Court dismissed the survivors’ case with prejudice, removing future opportunities to refile or retry their case.
On behalf of his family, State Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) released a statement. “A WWIl war veteran, Mr. Ellis, bravely served America, even as he spent a lifetime awaiting atonement related to the Tulsa Race Massacre.”
“Two days ago, Mr. Ellis urged us to keep fighting for justice. In the midst of his death, there remains an undying sense of right and wrong. Mr. Ellis was assured we would remain steadfast and we repeated to him, his own words, ‘We Are One,’ and we lastly expressed our love.”
As of August, the reparations case will be considered by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“We’re not asking for a handout,” Ellis said in 2021. “All we are asking for is for a chance to be treated like a first-class citizen who truly is a beneficiary of the promise that this is a land where there is ‘liberty and justice for all.’”