Two 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre survivors become oldest African Americans to be granted Ghanaian citizenship

Francis Akhalbey March 03, 2023
Viola Ford Fletcher, 108, and Hughes Van Ellis, 102, have been granted Ghanaian citizenship -- Photo Credit: Justice for Greenwood Foundation/Facebook

Two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Viola Ford Fletcher, 108, and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 102, have become the oldest African Americans to be granted Ghanaian citizenship, BBC reported. 

The citizenship granted to the siblings comes after they visited Ghana during an August 2021 tour of Africa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the massacre. That was also their first-ever visit to Africa. 

As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, the trip was created by Michael and Eric Thompson, founders of “Our Black Truth Social Media,” who met Fletcher and Ellis in 2021 during the Centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Fletcher told Thompson it was her life-long dream to visit Africa. 

During their time in Ghana, the siblings visited historic sites including the Osu Castle Dungeon where enslaved men and women were held before they were shipped abroad during the transatlantic slave trade. They also met Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. 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.

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. 

In a Facebook post, the Justice for Greenwood Foundation announced the siblings had been granted Ghanaian citizenship. “The Justice for Greenwood Foundation was proud to stand in solidarity with the survivors, celebrating their resilience and their contribution to the history of Black Oklahoma,” the organization stated.

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 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: March 3, 2023


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