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Viola Fletcher, 107, is the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which turned 100 recently.
Fletcher came before members of Congress asking for justice for her people and community who suffered an ill fate at the hands of a White mob, ESSENCE Magazine reported.
“I’m here asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921,” she said in the article.
Her testimony was during the “Continuing Injustice: The Centennial of the Tulsa-Greenwood Race Massacre” hearing on May 19, the article reported. The House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties looked the 1921 Massacre and potential solutions for survivors and their relatives, according to the story.
The Tulsa-Greenwood Race Massacre was noted as a historic event as a “firestorm of hatred and violence that is perhaps unequaled in the peacetime history of the United States.”
Late in the evening of May 31, 1921 and into the following day, a white mob reportedly 5,000-10,000 attacked the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The segregated and bustling Black community of successful businesses was known as ‘Black Wall Street.’
“The attackers looted and burned an estimated 1,256 homes, and they razed to the ground about 40 square blocks—nearly all of the district’s churches, schools, hospitals and businesses,” according to the article. Roughly 9,000 Greenwood residents were left homeless.
The number of people killed was not known, but a 2001 report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Race Massacre of 1921 said that at least 75 to 100 people died in the carnage. Another source has put the death count to 300.
“I have said so before, and I will say it again—the Tulsa-Greenwood Massacre can fairly be described as an act of ethnic cleansing, which was subsequently wiped from the history books for many decades despite having made national news at the time,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), House Judiciary Committee Chairman in his opening statement.
The hearing featured testimony from three survivors: Fletcher, Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Benningfield Randle—all centenarians who were children when the Tulsa-Greenwood Race Massacre happened.
“Mother” Randle, 106, testified via Zoom that growing up in Greenwood was ideal before the tragedy. “It was a beautiful Black community,” she said of her childhood. “I felt very safe.”
But when she was six-years-old, “white men with guns,” who “destroyed” the community changed all that.
“We didn’t understand. Why? What did we do to them?” Randle asked.
Read the full story here.