Race Massacre survivors, descendants seek help from U.S. Dept. of Justice

ghana survivor department of justice mass grave

The three survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, along with their families and other descendants, have asked the United States Department of Justice to assist with the continuing search for mass graves. The Justice For Greenwood organization made the request on behalf of the group. 

The request comes after the City of Tulsa reburied at least 19 bodies found in a mass grave site at Oaklawn Cemetery, which were discovered after forensic archaeologists determined that the site contained human remains. Family members, along with the public in Tulsa, were outraged by the steps taken by the City of Tulsa, under the guidance of Mayor G.T. Bynum, with some stating that the reburial amounted to re-traumatizing the community.

Kristi Williams, a descendant of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and a member of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Mass Graves Oversight Committee, wrote, “Yesterday we were notified that the City of Tulsa will rebury the remains with or without a ceremony tomorrow. It didn’t matter that we VOTED and ADVISED to postpone this reburial. This is UNACCEPTABLE AND DECEPTIVE!” 

The reburial took place in late July.

Justice for Greenwood coalition seeks federal help

ghana survivor department of justice mass grave

Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Hughes Van Ellis and survivor Viola Fletcher are honored in Ghana. Photo credit: Ayana Baraka.

Meanwhile, Viola Ford Fletcher, known as “Mother Fletcher,” Hughes Van Ellis, known as “Uncle Red,” and Lessie Beningfield Randle, known as “Mother Randle” joined together in the request to the Justice department, which was sent through their attorney, DeMario Solomon Simmons. 

In a letter, the group wrote, “To ensure the deaths of the massacre victims whose remains are found are properly and thoroughly investigated, we are calling on the Department of Justice to act as a neutral, third-party investigator and to take over the search.”

The justice department confirmed they received the letter, but did not yet have a comment on the request. 

“Mother” Fletcher and “Uncle Red” are currently in Ghana, Africa, on a week-long homecoming trip. They were recently honored by Igbo. “Mother” Fletcher was granted the title of “Queen Mother”, while “Uncle Red” was granted the title of “Chief”.

ghana survivor department of justice mass grave

Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Hughes Van Ellis and survivor Viola Fletcher are honored in Ghana. Photo credit: Ayana Baraka.

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