Seven year old, Viola Fletcher, was put to bed on the night of May 31, 1921, in her home in the Greenwood community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Suddenly her family woke her up and told her they had to leave.
Over the next 14 hours a white mob burned, looted, and murdered up to 300 of the residents of Greenwood, a black neighborhood also known as Black Wall Street because of its prosperity. 35 blocks of homes, businesses, schools, and even churches, were destroyed by the mob.
The survivors were rounded up and detained in the Brady Theater, one of the few buildings in Greenwood that was left standing after the massacre. In 2019, I visited the 35 block Greenwood community, which is now mostly vacant lots, and wept as I walked those empty streets.
After the massacre, Oklahoma declared martial law and forcibly put Tulsa’s Black residents into camps, however, they didn’t prosecute a single white person of a crime. Insurance companies refused to pay the survivors’ claims and no one was ever paid any reparations for their losses.
On May 19, 100 years later, the three living survivors, Hughes Van Ellis, Lessie Benningfield Mother Randle, and Viola, testified before the US Congress about the Tulsa Race Massacre. (Watch the video of her here.) Here’s some of what Ms. Fletcher said:
“I will never forget the violence. Black men being shot. Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke. I still see Black businesses being burned. I hear the screams. I live through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not.”
She also said: “I’m here seeking justice and I’m asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921.” Wouldn’t you ask that, if you were her?
Here’s one more quote from her speaking in Tulsa: “They murdered people. I still see it today in my mind … I have survived 100 years of painful memories and losses. By the grace of God, I am still here. I have survived. I have survived to tell this story. I believe I am still here to share it with you. Hopefully, now you all will listen to us while we are still here.”
Learn about Tulsa
100 years ago.
It’s something we
All need to know.
Tulsa is the tip of the iceberg of hidden American history that is finally being brought to light. Truth has no color!