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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On a triumphant finale to Black History Month 2023, siblings Viola Ford Fletcher and Hughes Van Ellis were presented with an extraordinary honor. Aged 108 and 102, respectively, they received Ghanaian citizenship in a regal ceremony at the Embassy of Ghana in Washington, D.C. They are two of three known survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre still living.
The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre is considered the worst act of racial violence against people of African descent committed on American soil. Specifically, 300 African Americans were killed during the massacre. Deceased victims were carelessly dumped into mass graves around the city. The carnage lasted from May 31 to June 1, enough time for the White mob to level 36 square blocks of the Greenwood District and displace 10,000 of its Black residents, including 6-year-old Viola and her 6-month-old brother Hughes.
A Trip to the Motherland
Later that summer, Fletcher and Van Ellis were able to fulfill their dreams of visiting the African Continent. Our Black Truth and the Diaspora African Forum provided them with a trip to Ghana – paid in full!
On their historic visit abroad, Van Ellis and Fletcher were awarded chiefdom titles. Van Ellis was bestowed with the title of Chief Bio Lantey, while Fletcher was crowned with the moniker Queen Mother Naa Lameley. They also inscribed the names of their deceased ancestors on the Sankofa Wall in Accra, the capital of Ghana.
In a special tribute to commemorate the centennial of this historical event, Fletcher and Van Ellis were honored in grand fashion, along with 108-year-old survivor Lessie Benningfield Randle, riding in an elegant horse-drawn carriage in front of the world on historic Greenwood Avenue.
The centenarians were welcomed by Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, who granted them citizenship and generously gifted Fletcher a piece of land in Accra. An incredible gesture that will have lasting implications for the family.
Ghana Royalty and American Black Excellence
Ghana’s royal presence was in full effect during their citizenship ceremony. In attendance were his Royal Majesty, Eze Dr. Amb. Chukwudi Ihenetu, Nigerian King of the Igbo Community in Ghana, and Her Royal Majesty, Ugoeze Liberty Ihenetu, Two-time grammy nominated music artist Rocky Dawuni and Hollywood actress AJ Akua Johnson were also in attendance, and journalist, author, and political analyst Tiffany Cross.
Filled with immense joy, some notably Greenwood descendants also traveled from Oklahoma to D.C., to celebrate their special swearing-in ceremony.
“Today, I feel proud to witness this meaningful connection between the survivors, my family’s legacy and the rich history of Ghana,” attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons shared, who represents Fletcher and Van Ellis’ in a lawsuit against the city of Tulsa. “Mother Fletcher and Uncle Red, two of the three last-known living survivors of the devastating #TulsaRaceMassacre, received their Ghanaian citizenship in Washington, DC today.”
“Today, is very symbolic and monumental because we have the privilege of witnessing two out of three known living survivors be granted Ghanaian citizenship. The president of Ghana came to America to grant them their wish,” Dr. Tiffany Crutcher of the Terence Crutcher Foundation and Greenwood descendant shared.
“Folks are going out of their way, making things happen because these two grand giants, grand-seniors, are among us. They inspire us every day,” Oklahoma State Representative Regina Goodwin, also a Greenwood descendant, stated while at the podium.
The Oath of Allegiance
Amid a sea of spectators, Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghana’s history-making first female ambassador to the US, addressed a captivated audience as she presented Queen Mother Naa Lameley Viola Ford Fletcher with an extraordinary privilege – dual citizenship. With great enthusiasm and poise, Ambassador Mahama then invited her 108-year-old countrywoman to take the oath of allegiance that would seal this unique honor followed by Hughes Van Ellis.
Fletcher, accompanied by her young grandson Ike Howard, solemnly repeated the oath after the Ambassador.
“I swear solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithfully bear true allegiance to the Republic of Ghana and I will preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the Republic of Ghana, so help me God.”
Then, Van Ellis also repeated the oath of allegiance.
After signing on the dotted line and leaving their thumbprint, the two Tulsa Race Massacre survivors were officially Ghanaian citizens — their certificates serving as proof.