1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: Search for mass grave underway

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A search for a mass grave in Tulsa is ongoing this week, nearly 100 years after a white mob killed an unknown number of Black victims and destroyed the city’s 35-block “Black Wall Street” — a thriving business district.

The excavation is a test attempting to determine whether human remains are present at the site: Oaklawn Cemetery, a location research suggests could hold an unmarked mass grave. The excavation could be an important step toward closure for victims’ families and may help experts better understand the scope of the tragedy.

As of Tuesday, no remains had yet been found with several days remaining in the project. Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said the search so far has turned up only common household items such as broken bottles, in addition to a shell casing that is likely not related to the massacre.

“As a city, we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through a collective and transparent process – filling gaps in our city’s history and providing healing and justice to our community,” a release quotes Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.

Death toll estimates vary from about three dozen to 300 or more. Survivors were forced to live in internment camps overseen by National Guard members for a time.

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