105-year-old race massacre survivor’s Tulsa home restored

Tulsa. Smoke billowing over Tulsa, Oklahoma during the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. 

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — When Lessie Benningfield Randle turned 105 on Nov. 10, she wanted two things for her birthday.

Randle, one of the last remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, wanted to look pretty and have her north Tulsa home restored. The first ask was easy, but it would take a team to give Randle’s home the attention it needed.

On a recent Saturday, Randle saw the finished product with a crowd (and a smoker full of barbecue) to welcome her home. The housewarming, put together by Tiffany Crutcher, founder of the Terence Crutcher Foundation; Revitalize T-Town; and other community members, came after several weeks of restoration work on the home at the corner of 49th Street North and Frankfort Avenue.

Crutcher said everyone involved knew how important it was to do right by Randle, a woman who survived racial terror as a child and lived long enough to see an African American president. Crutcher said the project should be the standard for what the city is capable of, not only for one home, but for the community at large.

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“When we talk about Black Wall Street, when we talk about Greenwood, that was a community that was built and rebuilt again,” Crutcher told Tulsa World. “Today is an example of what that community, almost 100 years ago, did and what we can do.”

District 1 Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper also spoke at the housewarming. Crutcher credited Hall-Harper, as well as Gathering Place Executive Director Tony Moore, for their involvement in the project.

Hall-Harper said “you can’t help but think of the spirit of Greenwood” in seeing Randle’s house restored.

“The few people that it took to do such an awesome work at this corner, just think about what we could do if we pulled together as a city and as a community to restore Greenwood to what it once was,”Hall-Harper said.

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From the repainted walls to the remodeled bathroom, Randle made her way through the partially furnished house with a smile on her face. There’s some new furniture, but a gift registry at MyRegistry.com has also been set up to help acquire other items. Randle said it made her feel “like a queen” and thanked everyone for helping with the project.

“I’m just so pleased and so happy to be with you all and you all to be with me,” Randle said. “God has blessed me over 100 years, and I thank him. And I thank you all for being here for me.

“Nowadays, there isn’t too much love in the world, so I’m just so glad to know that you love me well enough to come out and see me.”