Washington, DC – October 10, 2023** – The Ghana Tourism Authority and the Beyond the Return Secretariat join in expressing deep condolences on the passing of Mr. Hughes Van Ellis, affectionately known as Uncle Redd, a survivor of the Tulsa Race Massacre and a Ghanaian citizen. Our team received the news on Monday evening while in Washington DC.
Akwasi Agyeman, the CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority made the announcement after the opening ceremony for the Ghana Week DC and Capital City Africa Festival. “We just got the news, this evening that Uncle Redd has passed away,” said Mr. Agyeman. He asked everyone in the audience to honour him with a moment f silence.
Mr. Van Ellis’s journey was marked by unwavering resilience and a profound commitment to preserving historical memory. His indomitable spirit shone brightly throughout his 102 years of life, and his passing leaves a void that resonates deeply within our hearts.
As one of the last known survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an event etched in history as one of the most tragic instances of racial violence in the United States, Uncle Redd’s legacy is a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity. The destruction of Tulsa’s Greenwood District, often referred to as “Black Wall Street,” stands as a poignant reminder of the enduring struggle for justice and equality.
In recognition of his remarkable life and to honor the profound connection between the African diaspora and their heritage, Mr. Van Ellis was granted citizenship by the Ghanaian President, H.E Nana Akufo- Addo, when he and his sister, Viola Fletcher, also a Tulsa Race Massacre survivor, visited Ghana in 2021. The siblings participated in their official citizenship ceremony at the Ghana Embassy Washington DC in February of this year. At the ceremony, he was given his official Ghanaian name, Nii Bio Lantey. This symbolic gesture celebrated his enduring legacy and his role in preserving the collective memory of African history.
Uncle Redd’s passing leaves an immeasurable void in our hearts, but his spirit and legacy will continue to inspire generations to come. As we celebrate his life, we are reminded of the enduring strength and resilience of the African diaspora. His story is an integral part of our collective struggle, and his experiences offer a unique glimpse into the challenges that Black people have faced and continue to face.
We extend our deepest condolences to Uncle Redd’s family, friends, and all those who had the privilege of knowing this extraordinary individual. His memory will forever be etched in the tapestry of our shared history.
Story by: Ivy Prosper