She’s the oldest person to ever write a book!
Viola Ford Fletcher, affectionately known as “Mother Fletcher,” is a living museum. Now 108-years-old, she has seen two world wars, lived through two global pandemics and is the oldest living survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Fletcher was just 7-years-old when a white mob ravaged the segregated and thriving Black community in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The once prosperous community known as “Black Wall Street,” was destroyed, white mobs looting and burning 40 square blocks of businesses, hospitals, schools and churches, leaving more than 9,000 Greenwood residents homeless and a wake of dead Black bodies behind.
The survivors lost family, friends, and millions of dollars in assets and were forced to resettle in internment camps. No one was ever held liable for the massacre and Fletcher has dedicated her life to telling her story and pushing for justice and reparations for survivors from the city of Tulsa. Just 5 years ago, the city of Tulsa began an effort to locate mass graves, exhume the bodies and give them a proper burial. In 2021, Fletcher joined some of the other oldest survivors on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy to petition Congress for legal redress.
"I'm here asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921…I will never forget the violence of the white mob when we left our home. I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. 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. Our country may forget this history, but I cannot,” Fletcher told Congress.
Now the centenarian is releasing a memoir about her heroic life entitled “Don’t Let Them Bury My Story,” sharing first hand accounts with readers of her experiences as a Tulsa Race Massacre survivor, South Florida Times reports. Fletcher says they were threatened in the beginning about speaking out, and it took 102 years before the remaining survivors were even acknowledged. But she’s not scared anymore, and she’s telling her story.
“My grandmother was afraid to tell her stories for many years in fear of retaliation…knowing I was here to protect her, she was encouraged to conquer her fear. She looked at me and said, ‘Alright then, go tell my damn story,’” said Ike Howard, Fletcher’s grandson, co-writer and president of the Viola Ford Fletcher Foundation.
The WWII veteran believes that maybe God allowed her to live this long just so she can tell everyone what happened in Tulsa. Her book will be published on the 102nd anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre and Fletcher will be 109 years old, making her the oldest person to ever write a book. Fletcher penned the book alongside her grandson and her “baby brother” Van Ellis, age 102, wrote the forward to the book. Mocha Media, a Black woman-owned publishing company will publish the book, ensuring Fletcher’s memoir reaches audiences across digital and traditional formats.
“What an honor it is to make history…with Mother Fletcher, who is using the power of the pen to keep her survival story alive…Because our publishing model not only provides a platform for marginalized writers but it also allows Ms. Fletcher to receive immediate royalties, we in our own way can do our part to assist in the economic restoration of Ms. Fletcher and her family,” said Margo Ochoa, CEO of Mocha Media.
“Don’t Let Them Bury My Story” is available for pre-order now and set to be released on this summer. Mother Fletcher, Howard, and Ellis will then come together for a summer tour this year. To pick up your copy, visit mochamediabooks.com.
Thank you for your contributions Mother Fletcher. Because of you, we can!
Cover photo: Mother Fletcher, the oldest survivor of Tulsa Race Massacre, is publishing her memoir