*Viola Fletcher, who at 107 is the oldest living survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, testified Wednesday before a House subcommittee studying legal remedies to atone for the damage that a white violent mob did to a thriving Black Tulsa neighborhood then known as “Black Wall Street.”
“Today I’m visiting Washington DC for the first time in my life,” Fletcher began from her wheelchair. “I’m here seeking justice and I’m asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921.”
Fletcher joined two fellow survivors, her younger brother Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Benningfield Randle, before the House Judiciary Committee ahead of the massacre’s May 31st centennial. Both noted the community wasn’t able to rebuild and said survivors can still see the impact of the massacre.
“I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street” Fletcher testified. “I still smell smoke and see fire, I still see Black businesses being burned, I still hear airplanes flying overhead, I hear the screams. I live through the massacre everyday.”
The three survivors are the lead figures in a lawsuit filed last year that demands reparations for damage it says has continued since the destruction of the city’s Greenwood District, nearly a 100 years ago. The plaintiffs also include Vernon A.M.E Church — the only black-owned building to survive the massacre — descendants of other victims and the Tulsa African Ancestral Society. The lawsuit claims that the racial and economic disparities caused by the massacre created a public nuisance and an economic blight that remains. It says local government and agencies failed to help the neighborhood rebuild.
“I am 107 years old and have never seen justice. I pray that one day I will. I have been blessed with a long life — and have seen the best and worst of this country. I think about the terror inflicted upon Black people in this country every day,” Fletcher said.
Watch the gripping testimony of all three survivors below.