National News

Search to resume for mass graves of Tulsa massacre victims

Posted September 15, 2020 5:32 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2020 5:33 p.m. EDT

FILE - Im this Wednesday, July 22, 2020 file photo, Angela Berg, forensic anthropologist for the State Medical Examiner's Office, works on a large dirt pile at Oaklawn Cemetery during a test excavation in the search for possible mass graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, in Tulsa, Okla. A committee overseeing the search for mass graves has agreed to search two more locations in a cemetery where a search earlier this year failed to uncover human remains. (Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP, File))

— A search for mass graves of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre will continue at two more locations in a cemetery where a search earlier this year failed to uncover human remains, a city committee has decided.

The Public Oversight Committee for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation agreed Monday to search two areas in the city's Oaklawn Cemetery where an eight-day search in another area ended in July with no discovery of remains.

One of the areas is where a then-10-year-old boy laid he saw Blacks being buried shortly after the massacre and another where old funeral home records indicate 18 Blacks were buried following the massacre.

Ground-penetrating radar found anomalies indicating possible graves in both areas.

If the search uncovers human remains, they will be left in place while excavators look for clues to their identities and cause of death, said Phoebe Stubblefield, a University of Florida researcher who is helping orchestrate Tulsa’s search.

“I find it very likely that we will” find human remains, Stubblefield told the committee. “No individuals will be removed from any burial site. We will be able to expose them enough to collect the evidence we need.”

The committee recommended simultaneous searches starting in late October, though no start date was scheduled.

The violence in 1921 left as many as 300 dead on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, two years after the summer of 1919 when hundreds of African Americans across the country were slain at the hands of white mob violence during what was branded as “Red Summer.”

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