For nearly a century she was denied a voice by a culture of silence. Finally, at the age of 107, Viola Fletcher got a national stage on Wednesday to bear witness to America’s deep history of racial violence.
Fletcher is the oldest living survivor of a massacre that took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 31 May and 1 June 1921 when a white mob attacked the city’s “Black Wall Street”, killing an estimated 300 African Americans while robbing and burning more than 1,200 businesses, homes and churches.
She was just seven years old at the time.
For decades the atrocity was actively covered up and wished away. But Fletcher and her 100-year-old brother are seeking reparations and, ahead of the massacre’s centenary, appeared before a House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee considering legal remedies.
Congressman Steve Cohen, chairman of the panel, acknowledged coronavirus restrictions and said: “Those in the room, I’d like to ask you to keep your face mask on at all times unless you’re speaking – or unless you’re over a hundred years old.”