Viola Fletcher, 109, Becomes World’s Oldest Author
Written By: Midori Williams
Photo Courtesy: Cory Young
(GREENWOOD, Okla.) Mother Viola Fletcher, the oldest living survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, announced that her memoir “Don’t Let Them Bury My Story” will be released in early June at Fulton Street Books & Coffee.
At the book launch, Mother Fletcher and her grandson Ike Howard were accompanied by Fletcher’s younger brother, 102-year-old Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Hughes Van Ellis as well as her publisher Mocha Ochoa.
Howard expressed that this book is not only about his grandmother’s experience surviving the Massacre but is about her entire life. He explained that it is important for people to know that the effects of the Massacre go beyond the actual event. “This book is about different things that happened to our family and the generational trauma that was passed on because of the Race Massacre,” Howard explained.
Howard reflected on his experience trying to encourage Mother Viola Fletcher to tell her story to him and then to the world. He shared that growing up, he had always been curious about his grandmother’s life and wondered what she must have gone through after watching her experience nightmares. As he got older and she began to tell him her story, he understood the fears that held her back from sharing about her life.
“My grandmother is very private. Back then, they told her: If you talk about anything, they’re going to kill you and your entire family. So, she thought that she was protecting me,” Howard shared with those gathered at her book’s press conference in North Tulsa.
Howard and Ochoa reminded Mother Viola Fletcher that getting her story out there from her perspective would be most impactful. “She gives her thoughts because it is important that it wasn’t left up to the scholarly interpretation of how she must have felt,” Ochoa said.
Howard also shared his grandmother’s motivation for releasing her memoir. “She wants accountability. She wants justice. She wants people to know the history so that it doesn’t repeat itself,” Howard said.
Ochoa feels that Mother Fletcher is an amazing example of why it is never too late to tell your story. “There is someone out there waiting to hear how you overcame what you’ve been through,” Ochoa said.
She believes that throughout Black History there are countless undocumented stories, and people need to do their part to make sure that their family history is recorded so it can be shared.
“This is literary activism; we use our stories to create a better world,” Ochoa declared.
Ochoa expressed her fears about the book being placed on the banned book list due to Oklahoma’s bans on Critical Race Theory within public schools.
“It is up to us, as consumers, because it may be banned on these lists. But we have our own bookshelves at home,” Ochoa said.
In May 2021, Mother Viola Fletcher became the oldest person to testify before the U.S. Congress – sharing her experience during the Tulsa Race Massacre, along with her brother, Hughes Van Ellis and Mother Leslie Benningfield Randle, who testified via Zoom.
Howard feels that young people are the future and need to have the opportunity to read books that contain stories like this one.
“Don’t Let Them Bury My Story” will be officially released in early June.
The Terence Crutcher Foundation pledged to pre-order Mother Fletcher’s memoir from Fulton Street Coffee & Books for all the children who were present at the book launch.
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