This year, when the 102nd anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre is commemorated, it will include the story of the oldest living survivor—in her own words.
At 108 years old, Ms. Viola Fletcher, affectionately known as “Mother Fletcher,” will publish her memoir titled “Don’t Let Them Bury My Story, The Oldest Living Survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre In Her Own Words” with her grandson Ike Howard.
In her memoir, Mother Fletcher recounts her journey from being a terrified seven-year-old girl forced to flee her burning neighborhood of Greenwood in the middle of the night to a family matriarch testifying before Congress 100 years later to ensure justice for the victims of the massacre. It was also the site of one of the worst instances of racial violence in U.S. history.
Black residents of the Greenwood community in Tulsa created a thriving business district known as “Black Wall Street.” In May of 1921, the city’s Black Wall Street was decimated. White mobs bombed and burned down the thriving community’s black-owned businesses, churches, and homes after a Black man was falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. The community was destroyed, and up to 300 people were killed. No one was ever prosecuted.
“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. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams,” Fletcher told Congress. “I have lived through the massacre every day. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot.”
“My grandmother was afraid to tell her stories for many years in fear of retaliation,” Howard said in a release shared with ESSENCE. The retired military veteran suggested that maybe God had blessed his grandmother with longevity so she could tell everyone what happened in Tulsa. “Knowing I was here to protect her, she was encouraged to conquer her fear. She looked at me and said, ‘Alright then, go tell my damn story.'”
“Don’t Let Them Bury My Story” will be available on May 30. Upon publication, Fletcher, whose birthday is on May 5, will be 109 years old, making her the oldest centurion to write a book, according to the release.