Tulsa race massacre survivors granted Ghanaian citizenship

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Two survivors of the 1921 massacre of black people in the US city of Tulsa have been granted Ghanaian citizenship.

Viola Fletcher, 108 and her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 102, are two of three living survivors.

About 300 black residents of Greenwood – a prosperous town then known as “Black Wall Street” – were murdered and their homes and businesses destroyed by a mob of white people.

The citizenship ceremony took place at Ghana’s embassy in Washington DC.

Ms Fletcher, known as Mother Fletcher, and Mr Van Ellis, also called Uncle Red, visited Ghana in August 2021 as part of a week-long tour of Africa to mark the centenary of the killings, known as the Tulsa race massacre.

The pair will become dual citizens, the Washington Post reports, citing comments made at the ceremony by Hajia Alima Mahama, Ghana’s US ambassador.

The Justice for Greenwood Foundation, which works with survivors of the massacre and their descendants, said the pair have become the oldest African-Americans to be granted citizenship of Ghana.

The foundation said it was “proud to stand in solidarity with the survivors, celebrating their resilience and their contribution to the history” of black Oklahoma.

Rocky Dawuni, a Ghanaian singer-songwriter, posed with a photo of Ms Fletcher and Mr Van Ellis at the citizenship ceremony, calling it a “historic day”.

During their 2021 visit, Ms Fletcher and Mr Van Ellis were both granted royal Ghanaian names, and met President Nana Akufo-Addo, who had invited members of the African diaspora to visit Ghana to mark the 2019 “Year of Return”, commemorating 400 years since the first African slaves were said to have arrived in the US.

“This country is your country, and anyone who wants to come to re-establish, connect with us here, is welcome,” Mr Akufo-Addo said in 2021.

Ghana was a key transit point for transporting slaves and the president said his country felt a responsibility to welcome all those who could trace their ancestry to Africa. The initiative was also aimed at boosting Ghana’s economy, particularly tourism, as well as its international image.

The country attracted a number of celebrities in 2019, including model Naomi Campbell, actor Idris Elba, comedian Steve Harvey and American rapper Cardi B.

More than 100 years after it took place, the Tulsa massacre remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in US history.

Against a backdrop of racial segregation, Ku Klux Klan rallies and lynchings, on 31 May 1921 armed white mobs went on the rampage in the prosperous black neighbourhood of Greenwood after a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman.

An estimated 300 black people were killed, and the Greenwood district devastated beyond recognition.

For decades the story of the massacre was largely erased from history, but was thrust into the spotlight in 2020 when then-President Donald Trump announced he would hold an election rally in Tulsa on 19 June. The day is celebrated by many African-Americans as Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery.

Occurring in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, which triggered nationwide protests about racial injustice, Mr Trump moved his rally to a day later.

Source: BBC

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