Oldest living survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre Viola Ford Fletcher celebrates 110th birthday

Francis Akhalbey May 15, 2024
Viola Ford Fletcher turned 110 on May 5 -- Photo Credit: Justice for Greenwood Foundation/Facebook

The oldest living survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Viola Ford Fletcher, was surrounded by her family, friends, and neighbors as she celebrated her 110th birthday in Texas.

The family matriarch was just 7 years old when irate White people destroyed the properties of Black inhabitants living in Greenwood, which was at that time the most affluent African-American community in the United States. 300 lives were lost.

Fletcher, also known as “Mother” Fletcher, marked her 110th birthday on May 5, WSFA reported. “I’m real proud to be this age,” the centenarian, who has three children and six grandchildren, said.

Fletcher’s grandson, Ike Howard, spoke about a valuable lesson he got from his grandmother, saying that she made him know it takes fewer muscles to smile than frown.

“You don’t forgive someone for them,” said Howard. “You forgive people for yourself because it takes a lot of energy to hate a situation or to hate an experience.”

Fletcher also said she couldn’t pinpoint an exact thing when she was asked the secret to her long life. “I have many, so many I can’t mention,” she said. “But it’s a blessing to live this long and easy to do. If I can do it, others can.”

The centenarian’s non-profit organization, the Viola Ford Fletcher Foundation, “mobilizes resources to build people’s self-sufficiency through health, educational knowledge-sharing, and workforce opportunity.” More than $6,000 had been raised for her non-profit during the course of her birthday celebration.

The Tulsa Race Massacre

In May 1921, 19-year-old Black shoeshiner Dick Rowland entered the Drexel building at 319 South Main Street to use the Blacks-only restroom which was on the top floor. The building had only one elevator, which White teen Sarah Page was operating. According to reports, Rowland accidentally slipped and fell on Page causing her to scream out of panic. A White clerk who witnessed the incident called the police, who later arrested Rowland and charged him with assault even though Page refused to press any charges.

The incident was reported by a white-owned local newspaper calling for Rowland’s lynching. Rowland was processed and taken to court on May 31, 1921, however, tensions between the White mob who went to the courthouse to lynch Rowland and the Black residents who were also around to ensure his safety escalated into a 24-hour-long armed confrontation.

A White mob eventually attacked and destroyed the properties of Black people living in Greenwood, which was then known as the “Black Wall Street” as it was home to highly successful and profitable Black-owned businesses. The incident not only claimed 300 lives but destroyed more than 1,200 homes.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 15, 2024


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