Over a century after a white mob destroyed the nation’s “Black Wall Street,” Viola Fletcher, 109, has released a memoir to share her account of the devastating Tulsa race massacre.
This feat makes the survivor, who was only seven years old when the ordeal unfolded, the oldest woman to unveil a memoir, per The 19th.
Viola Fletcher Says She “Can Still Smell The Smoke” From The Tulsa Massacre
During a sit-down with the publication, Ms. Fletcher spoke on her decision to write Don’t Let Them Bury My Story. The book tells the oldest-living Tulsa massacre survivor’s account of the fateful night in question, along with the aftermath.
According to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, conflicts between the city’s residents came to a head when a Black man was accused of assaulting a white woman in an elevator in late May 1921. Racial tensions soon escalated, and a white mob wreaked havoc on Tulsa’s Greenwood District — which contained its affluent Black community — from May 31 to June 1, 1921.
The massacre is estimated to have claimed 300 lives while displacing thousands more, and it’s burned into Viola Fletcher’s memory.
“I can still smell the smoke … the burning. I remember the bodies. All the Black bodies in the street. The sound of the guns.”
Harrowingly, Fletcher noted, “I haven’t forgotten that. I can’t forget that. … It doesn’t go away.”
“She recounts her journey from being a 7-year-old girl forced to escape her neighborhood of Greenwood to testifying before Congress to ensure justice for the victims of the massacre.”
Tulsa Massacre Survivor, Viola Fletcher, Becomes World’s Oldest Author https://t.co/XP6VF6IjZ8 pic.twitter.com/bzxkxwVEvj
— Black Girl Nerds (@BlackGirlNerds) June 10, 2023
Publishers Apparently Had Reservations About The Memoir: “I Was Floored”
Ms. Fletcher’s grandson, Ike Howard, co-authored the book. Notably, Margo Ochoa published the memoir through her newly-established Mocha Media company after no one else took it on.
“I knew this had to get out there. That first conversation with Ike and the family, I knew. I knew that this was too important and powerful not to. So when the doubts and flat-out no’s came in from publishers, I was floored.”
Ochoa added, “So many Black stories are out there that could do so much, that deserve to be told.”
As for Howard, he commended his grandmother for her “strength” before acknowledging the Tulsa race massacre’s lingering impact.
“The trauma and violence from the riots did not stop that night. It’s still happening. We’re here to make sure people know their stories. To get some kind of justice. That’s why we’re here.”
He went on to call Viola Fletcher’s story “important” for everyone “to not just know, but remember.”
Shoutout to Ms. Viola Fletcher for making history and keeping her story alive for years to come!
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