Oldest living Tulsa Massacre survivor Viola Fletcher celebrates 107th birthday

"Sleeping and eating and exercising" is her key to longevity

The oldest known survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre recently celebrated her 107th birthday. 

Read More: 1921 Tulsa Massacre Documentary in development at History Channel

Viola Fletcher was seven-years-old when racist whites unleashed their deadly wrath on the Oklahoma city in June 1921. She celebrated her milestone birthday on May 5, and her special day was also acknowledged by the Greenwood community on Monday.

Speaking to Oklahoma State University’s Oral History Research Program in 2014, Fletcher said her secret to longevity was “Sleeping and eating and exercising. It’s no problem with me.”

As theGrio previously reported, many died and thousands of Black residents were injured during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre after angry white mobs attacked the area once known as ‘Black Wall Street.’

According to History.com, the attackers destroyed 35 blocks of businesses, 1,200 homes, and 300 mostly Black people were killed, although the total number of deaths remains undetermined. The massacre was allegedly sparked after a young Black man was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. 

Several Black people were charged for the riots but no white residents were charged with murder. Fletcher and fellow survivor Hughes Van Ellis are reportedly part of a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa for its part in the deadly riots, per PEOPLE.

An official documentary about the Tulsa massacre is coming to The History Channel. The film, tentatively known as Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre, will debut this summer, 100 years after the two-day tragedy. The doc will include archival footage and feature interviews with historians and experts of places from organizations including the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum.

The film will tie together how the event impacts us today.

According to The Wrap, the documentary will be directed by Stanley Nelson of Freedom Riders and Marco Williams, the duPont Award winner. Donnell Beverly, the president of Russell Westbrook Enterprises, will also executive produce the project.

Last October, at least 10 bodies were found in an unmarked mass grave at a Tulsa cemetery where investigators have been searching for the remains of victims of the massacre. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, who in 2018 proposed looking for victims of the violence and later budgeted $100K to fund it after previous searches failed to find victims, called the discovery significant in the city’s history, theGrio reported. 

Fletcher has joined the efforts of the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission to fight HB 1775, a bill recently signed by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt that prohibits schools from teaching specific topics about race and gender, and bans sexual diversity training at colleges and universities, according to Fox affiliate WXXA.

Read More: Library of Congress updated Tulsa Race Massacre heading

“Telling the story of 1921 requires confronting and sharing the facts about this horrific period in Oklahoma’s and Tulsa’s history. It also demands an exploration of the underlying causative factors,” the commission reportedly wrote in a letter.

“HB 1775 chills the ability of educators to teach students, of any age, and will only serve to intimidate educators who seek to reveal and process our hidden history.”

The governor said the bill does not restrict the teaching of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre or other important parts of Oklahoma history. 

“Governor Stitt and the First Lady both strongly support reconciliation, healing and the rebirth of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, and have worked with the 1921 Race Massacre Centennial Commission on multiple productive events,” Stitt’s office said in response to the letter.

theGrio’s Keydra Manns contributed to this report. 

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