Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, testified before Congress “seeking justice” almost a century after the deadly racist attack took place.
On Wednesday (May 19), the 107-year-old spoke before members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee to push for reparations. Fletcher was only seven years old when violent white mobs burned Black Wall Street, which was the wealthiest Black community in the United States, to the ground. She described the horrific night during the hearing.
“The night of the massacre, I was awakened by my family. My parents and five siblings were there. I was told we had to leave, and that was it,” Fletcher said.
“I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home,” she added. “I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lining the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams.”
“I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot. I will not, and other survivors do not. And our descendants do not,” Fletcher said.
Once she and her family left Tulsa, Fletcher said that she lost her chance to receive an education and “never finished school past the fourth grade.” She also said that the massacre took a lot from her and she barely made enough money to support herself.
“I am 107 years old and have never seen justice,” she continued. “I pray that one day I will. I have been blessed with a long life and have seen the best and the worst of this country. I think about the horror inflicted upon Black people in this country every day.”
Over 300 people were killed during the massacre. In the aftermath, many of the survivors were placed in internment camps to prevent them from participating in a “Negro uprising.” The deadly event caused between $25 million to $100 million in damages, which was a huge loss for the flourishing Black community.
Fletcher is asking the Judiciary subcommittee to acknowledge what has happened to her and other Black people. She also wants survivors and their descendants to be compensated from the state of Oklahoma or the city of Tulsa.
Watch Fletcher’s testimony below.