Two survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921 are traveling to Ghana on a particular mission. Viola Ford Fletcher, 107, and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100, will embark on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to Africa on Friday, August 13. Fletcher, also known as “Mother” Fletcher, and Ellis, commonly known as “Uncle Red,” are two of the Tulsa Race Massacre’s last known remaining survivors.
The racial riot destroyed the homes of the Black residents of Greenwood, which at the time was the wealthiest African-American community in the country. A total of 300 people were killed.
While in Ghana, Fletcher and Ellis will meet with the country’s president and other tribal chiefs. The two centenarians will get special recognition. In a traditional Ghanaian ritual, Fletcher will be dubbed “Queen Mother,” while Ellis will be given the title of Chief. The names of their descendants will also be displayed on a wall inside the Diaspora African Forum Embassy.
The journey is dubbed “Coming Home: A Lifetime Journey” by its sponsors.
“People always want to get home, and she’s been thinking about it since she was a tiny girl,” says the narrator. Rep. Regina Goodwin said, “She’s really delighted, they’re both super excited, and they couldn’t be traveling with more wonderful folks.”
Michael and Eric Thompson, founders of “Our Black Truth Social Media,” met Fletcher and Ellis during the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre this year and decided to organize the trip. Fletcher told the Thompsons that seeing Africa had been a lifelong goal of hers. They began working together to make her idea a reality.
The Diaspora African Forum, whose mission is to “be the bridge that connects the African Diaspora and Africa,” is also sponsoring the trip.
Mother Randle, the Massacre’s third survivor, will not be able to make the trip, but she has asked the others to bring her some souvenirs, according to KTUL.
On August 21, Fletcher and Ellis will return to the United States.
The Tulsa Race Riots
Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black shoeshiner, entered the Drexel building at 319 South Main Street in May 1921 to use the top-floor Blacks-only lavatory. There was just one elevator in the building, which was manned by White teen Sarah Page. Rowland, according to sources, slipped and landed on Page, causing her to scream in terror. Even though Page refused to press charges, a White clerk who witnessed the event alerted the cops, who later detained Rowland and charged him with assault.
A white-owned local newspaper covered the incident, asking for Rowland’s lynching.
The lynching of Rowland. On May 31, 1921, Rowland was processed and hauled to court, but tensions between the White crowd who had come to lynch Rowland and the Black townspeople who were also present to secure his safety erupted into a 24-hour armed standoff.
Greenwood, which was previously known as the “Black Wall Street” because it was home to very successful and profitable Black-owned businesses, was eventually assaulted and destroyed by a White mob. Not only did the catastrophe claim the lives of 300 people, but it also destroyed almost 1,200 dwellings.