Viola Fletcher

Viola Fletcher (née Ford; born May 5, 1914), also known as Mother Fletcher, is the oldest known survivor of the Tulsa race massacre. One hundred years after the massacre, she testified before Congress about the need for reparations.

Viola Fletcher
Viola Ford

(1914-05-05) May 5, 1914 (age 108)
Known forOldest known survivor of the Tulsa race massacre
Robert Fletcher
(m. 1932)

Early lifeEdit

Fletcher was born May 5, 1914, in Comanche, Oklahoma to Lucinda Ellis and John Wesley Ford.[1][2] She was the second oldest of eight children.[1] She has a younger brother, Hughes Van Ellis, who was a newborn at the time of the massacre and as of 2021 was 100.[1][2] The house had no electricity.[1] Before moving to Tulsa the family were sharecroppers.[1] In Tulsa the family attended St. Andrew, a Black Baptist church.[3]

Fletcher told Congress that due to family circumstances after the massacre, she left school after the 4th grade.[2]

Experiences during the massacreEdit

Her family, including four of her siblings, was living in Greenwood, a wealthy Black neighborhood of Tulsa, at the time of the massacre.[1][3] Fletcher was seven years old at the time of the massacre.[1] She was in bed asleep on May 31, 1921, when the massacre began; her mother woke the family and they fled.[1][3] The family lost everything but the clothes they were wearing.[3] She is the oldest known survivor of the massacre.[3] She sleeps sitting up on her couch with the lights on.[3]

Testimony before CongressEdit

Fletcher testified about reparations before the U.S. Congress on May 19, 2021, along with her 100-year-old brother Hughes and Lessie Benningfield Randle, who was 106.[1]

Fletcher told Congress:[4]

I will never forget the violence of the White mob when we left our home,” she said, “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.

She testified that the city of Tulsa had used the names of victims and images of the massacre to generate money for the city.[2]

In 2022, Fletcher, her brother, and Randle received $1M from New York philanthropist Ed Mitzen.[5]

Visit to GhanaEdit

In August 2021 Fletcher and her brother Hughes visited Ghana.[6] They met with Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo.[6] She was crowned a queen mother and given several Ghanaian names, including Naa Lamiley, which means, “Somebody who is strong. Somebody who stands the test of time”, Naa Yaoteley, which means “the first female child in a family or bloodline”, and Ebube Ndi Igbo.[6]

Oral history projectEdit

Fletcher was interviewed in 2014 for an oral history project conducted by the Oklahoma Oral History Research program and the Oklahoma State University College of Human Sciences.[1][7]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1932, at the age of 18, she married Robert Fletcher and moved with him to California, where they both worked in shipyards, Viola as an assistant welder.[1] They returned to Oklahoma after World War II and raised three children while she worked cleaning houses.[1] Fletcher worked until she was 85.[1][7]

Fletcher was also known as Mother Fletcher or Mother Viola Fletcher.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Brown, Deneen L. (May 19, 2021). "One of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — 107 years old — wants justice". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e Brown, Stacy M. (2021-07-25). "'Mother' Viola Fletcher among 200 Black Wall Street survivors headed to Ghana". The Atlanta Voice. Retrieved 2022-06-12.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Cachero, Paulina (May 29, 2021). "Survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre Try to Break Its Curse". Time. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  4. ^ Summers, Juana (May 19, 2021). "Survivors Of 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Share Eyewitness Accounts". NPR. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  5. ^ Chavez, Nicole (May 19, 2022). "Three survivors of Tulsa Race Massacre receive $1 million donation". CNN. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c Brown, Deneen L. (September 4, 2021). "She survived the Tulsa Race Massacre. Now, at 107, she's become a queen mother". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 12, 2022.
  7. ^ a b DeSantis, Rachel (12 May 2021). "Viola Fletcher, Oldest Living Survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre, Celebrates 107th Birthday". People. Retrieved 2022-06-12.