Nearly one hundred years ago, one of the worst acts of racial violence in U.S. history took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The attack, known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when the city’s predominantly Black Greenwood District was destroyed by a White mob.
Historians estimate around 300 people were killed during the massacre, while over 1,000 businesses were looted and destroyed. The neighborhood, known then as “Black Wall Street,” never regained its economic prosperity after being plundered and decimated due to “Jim Crow, jealousy, White supremacy, and land lust,” according to the Tusla Historical Society and Museum.
Three surviving witnesses of the horrific violence shared their recollections with Congress on Wednesday.
“I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street,” 107-year-old Viola Fletcher told lawmakers. “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,” she said.
“I am 107 years old and have never seen justice,” Fletcher continued. “I pray that one day I will. I have been blessed with a long life and have seen the best and worst of this country. I think about the terror inflicted upon Black people in this country every day.”
Two other survivors, Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Benningfield Randle, also testified at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. “We were left with nothing. We were made refugees in our own country,” 100-year-old Van Ellis said.
In addition to marking the 100th anniversary of the massacre, the survivors are also part of a lawsuit that calls for reparations for the longstanding damage to the once-affluent community. “My opportunities were taken from me and my community. North Tulsa, Black Tulsa, is still messed up today. They didn’t rebuild it. It is empty. It’s a ghetto,” Randle said.
“We are asking for justice for a lifetime of ongoing harm—harm that was caused by the massacre,” Van Ellis testified.
Watch the testimonies above courtesy of C-SPAN. Find more info about the Tulsa Race Massacre here.