‘God has preserved them for this day’ – Tulsa Race Massacre survivors remember 100 years

Tulsa Race Massacre

TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) – Three surviving Tulsa Race Massacre victims were in Tulsa, Tuesday, as VIP guests of President Joe Biden.

They have been waiting 100 years for a U.S. president to acknowledge the atrocities of that day on this sacred soil. 

“For too long (the Tulsa Race Massacre was) forgotten by our history. As soon as it happened there was a clear effort to erase it from our memory, our collective memory,” said President Joe Biden to a standing-room only crowd at the Greenwood Cultural Center.

Survivors like Hughes Van Ellis waited 100 years for those words.

“It was wonderful,” said Van Ellis. “I loved it. I didn’t think I would live 100 years to see this.”

Photo goes with story
Hughes Van Ellis, survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

“I’m thankful for my dad, my aunt and Mother Randall that they are here to experience it,” said Van Ellis’ daughter, Malee Kraft. “God has preserved them for this day.”

President Joe Biden came to listen, to learn and to support a community on the rise. 

“It is so significant to have a president acknowledge, to bring national attention to this story,” said Michelle Brown-Burdex of the Greenwood Cultural Center.

image of US President Joe Biden (2R), with Urban Development Marcia Fudge (3L), Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice
US President Joe Biden (2R), with Urban Development Marcia Fudge (3L), Director of the Domestic Policy Council Susan Rice and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond (L), listens to Michelle Brown-Burdex (R), Program Coordinator of the Greenwood Cultural Center, as they tour the Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 2021. – US President Joe Biden traveled Tuesday to Oklahoma to honor the victims of a 1921 racial massacre in the city of Tulsa, where African American residents are hoping he will hear their call for financial reparations 100 years on. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

President Biden toured the Cultural Center.

He used the stage to shine a bright light on Oklahoma’s dark secret.

“They’ll use this moment across the country to tell the story of what happened in Greenwood that day,” said former Oklahoma lawmaker Mike Shelton. “It’s really special.”

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Tulsa Race Massacre survivor Viola Fletcher.

Queen Mother Delois Blakely is a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations.

She traveled to Tulsa to support the survivors.

“I have met with the survivors which has been a moving experience for me,” Blakely said. “Their strength. Their dedication to life itself, holding onto life. They are self-reliant and their self-resilience for the future generation to move on and stand tall.”

The complicated issue of reparations remains unsettled.

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But today the dream of healing is within reach.

“A lot of people ignore this side of town,” said North Tulsa resident Mary Ann Stufflebeam. “So, I’m just excited that we’re highlighting something that happened, and I’m glad they changed the name from race riot to race massacre.”

President Biden used the somber anniversary to unveil a new federal program aimed at growing black wealth across America and shrinking the racial wealth gap.

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