Survivors of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Testify to U.S. Congress

Survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre testified to the United States Congress on May 19 to call for justice and official acknowledgement of the riot that took place a hundred years ago.

Viola Fletcher, her younger brother Hughes Van Ellis, and Lessie Benningfield Randle testified before members of a House Judiciary subcommittee as the lead figures in a lawsuit filed last year, demanding reparations for the damages caused by the 1921 massacre.

“I am here seeking justice. I am here asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921,” Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the massacre at 107 years old, said.

According to the Tulsa Historical Society Museum, the white supremacist massacre that took place from May 31 to June 1, 1921 killed an estimated 300 Black people in Tulsa’s Greenwood District in Oklahoma that was then known as “Black Wall Street.”

“I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned,” Fletcher testified.

“I hear the screams. I have lived through the massacre every day,” Fletcher continued.

Van Ellis, 100, and Randle, 106, also told the lawmakers that the district was not able to recover from the massacre, in which a mob of white rioters looted and burned over 1,200 buildings, killing hundreds of Black people.

“Our country may forget this history but I cannot. I will not and other survivors do not and our descendants do not,” Fletcher said.

Plaintiffs of the lawsuit also include descendants of the victims, the Tulsa African Ancestral Society, and the Vernon AME Church — the only Black-owned building that survived the massacre.

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