Two 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Survivors Become Oldest African Americans to be Granted Ghanaian Citizenship

Viola Ford Fletcher 108 and Hughes Van Ellis 102
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Viola Ford Fletcher 108 and Hughes Van Ellis 102


Viola Ford Fletcher, 108, and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 102, have become the oldest African Americans to be given Ghanaian citizenship, according to the BBC.

The siblings were granted citizenship after visiting Ghana during an August 2021 tour of Africa to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy. It was also their first trip to Africa.

The trip was organized by Michael and Eric Thompson, owners of “Our Black Truth Social Media,” who met Fletcher and Ellis in 2021 during the Centenary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Fletcher informed Thompson that seeing Africa had been a lifelong goal of hers.

The siblings toured historic places in Ghana, including the Osu Castle Dungeon, where enslaved men and women were kept before being sold abroad during the transatlantic slave trade. They also had a meeting with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. The two racial riot survivors also went to Ghana to visit the Nigerian Igbo community, where they were crowned honorary chief and queen mother.

Fletcher and Ellis also laid a wreath at the grave of W.E.B. Du Bois, a civil rights activist and historian who died in Ghana.

Fletcher, also known as “Mother” Fletcher, and Ellis, commonly known as “Uncle Red,” are the last two known remaining survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The racial riot damaged the homes of the Black residents of Greenwood, which was the most prosperous African-American enclave in the United States at the time. 300 people were killed.

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

Dick Rowland, a 19-year-old Black shoeshiner, entered the Drexel building at 319 South Main Street in May 1921 to use the Blacks-only lavatory on the top level. There was just one elevator in the building, which White adolescent Sarah Page was running. According to sources, Rowland tripped and landed on Page, causing her to scream in fear. A White clerk who witnessed the encounter alerted the cops, who eventually detained Rowland and charged him with assault despite Page’s refusal to press charges.

A white-owned local newspaper called for Rowland’s lynching in response to the incident. On May 31, 1921, Rowland was processed and hauled to court; however, tensions between the White crowd that went to the courthouse to lynch Rowland and the Black people who were also present to secure his safety developed into a 24-hour-long armed battle.

A White mob eventually attacked and burned the homes of Black people in Greenwood, which was dubbed “Black Wall Street” at the time because it was home to very successful and profitable Black-owned businesses. The event not only claimed 300 lives but also destroyed over 1,200 homes.

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