One of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Hughes “Uncle Redd” Van Ellis, has died. He was 102 years old.
According to a statement shared with ESSENCE, the World War II Veteran and author passed away on October 9 at a hospice in Denver, Colorado.
“He died waiting on justice,” his grandnephew, Ike Howard, shared with CNN.
Ellis was just six months old when he and his older sister, Viola Fletcher, fled the affluent Black neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa’s Greenwood District as a violent white mob attacked.
The Tulsa Race massacre was one of America’s deadliest acts of racial violence. The mob burned down homes and places of business. As many as 300 Black residents were killed, and 1,000 homes are estimated to have been destroyed, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.
“I lost 102 years. I don’t want nobody else to lose that,” Ellis told CNN earlier this year.
The last three known survivors of the atrocity were Ellis, Viola Fletcher, 109, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108. The trio had been locked in a years-long legal battle with the City of Tulsa and other city officials to secure reparations for the destruction committed more than a century ago.
An Oklahoma court dismissed the survivors’ lawsuit against the city in July, and their attorneys have since filed an appeal. The state Supreme Court has said it will consider the appeal, but it is unknown when the case will be heard.
“Through his lifelong commitment to justice, [Ellis] transformed pain into purpose, ensuring that the world would never forget the atrocities committed on that fateful day,” according to a statement on behalf of the family.