Tulsa Race Massacre survivors accept offer to become Ghanaian citizens

Mildred Europa Taylor August 21, 2021
The Tulsa Race Massacre survivors were given the honorary titles of queen mother and chief uncle in Ghana. Photo: BBC

Two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre have accepted the offer to become Ghanaian citizens after taking a special trip to Ghana, BBC reports. “We accept it with great joy and we thank the president for this great honor,” said Viola Fletcher, 107, and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100. The two centenarians left the U.S. on Friday, August 13, for the trip of a lifetime to Ghana — their first-time visit to Africa.

Fletcher, also known as “Mother” Fletcher, and Ellis, otherwise known as “Uncle Red”, are two of the three last known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The race riot destroyed the properties of the 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 and Ellis have so far visited historic sites in Ghana including the Osu Castle Dungeon where enslaved men and women were held before they were shipped abroad during the transatlantic slave trade. They have also met Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. On Wednesday, the two race riot survivors also visited the Nigerian Igbo community in Ghana where they were crowned honorary chief and queen mother.

Fletcher and Ellis also laid a wreath at the tomb of historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, who found his final resting place in Ghana.

Sponsors of the trip are calling it, “Coming Home: A Journey of a Lifetime.” The trip was created by Michael and Eric Thompson, founders of “Our Black Truth Social Media,” who met Fletcher and Ellis during the Centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre this year. Fletcher told the Thompsons it was her life-long dream to visit Africa. The two started working towards making her dream come true.

The trip is also being sponsored by the Diaspora African Forum, whose vision is “to be the bridge that unites the African Diaspora and Africa.”

Fletcher and Ellis said they chose Ghana because “it represents Africa”, according to BBC. The third remaining survivor of the Massacre, Mother Randle, was not able to make the trip but she asked the others to bring her back some souvenirs, KTUL reported.

Fletcher and Ellis will return to the U.S. on August 21.

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 was being operated by White teen Sarah Page. 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 on 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 did not only claim 300 lives but destroyed more than 1,200 homes.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 21, 2021


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