Wall Street Journal: Insurance Exclusions Left Black Tulsans Footing the Bill for the Massacre

Williams Dreamland Theatre Rebuilding

The massacre took the lives of dozens of Black residents. It also left behind a devastated neighborhood and many property owners struggling to cover their losses. Ms. Williams was one of at least 70 Greenwood property owners who filed insurance claims after the massacre. After many of their claims were denied, Ms. Williams and others sued the insurance companies and later the city of Tulsa, unsuccessfully.

Greenwood property and business owners suffered at least $1.5 million in losses in 1921 dollars, according to a 2001 report from a bipartisan commission appointed by the state to study the event. That’s roughly $22 million in today’s dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figure likely underestimates total losses, as not everyone had full insurance coverage or went to court.

Ultimately, insurance companies fell back on an exclusionary clause that prevented payouts on many claims. The policies with that clause said insurers wouldn’t be held liable for loss “caused directly or indirectly by invasion, insurrection, riot, civil war or commotion, or military or usurped power.”

Read the full article here.