An excavation effort has now uncovered 27 graves during a search for the bodies of those killed in the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. This means that 15 new burials were discovered since the 12 that were revealed in October.
Early last year, Republican Mayor G.T. Bynum announced that the city was preparing to dig for victims of the assault after archaeologists found evidence of the mass graves that many eyewitnesses described after the horde of white vigilantes carried out the attack. So far, it seems the search is yielding results. (See: Republican Mayor Continues Effort To Reveal The Truth Behind Tulsa Massacre)
“The work in the excavation has switched from using backhoes to remove the soil above the coffins to using smaller hand tools. A team from Cardno Inc., an environmental and infrastructure company, is at Oaklawn Cemetery to complete the exhumation process,” according to a CNN report.
“But now, we’re at this point where we’re doing the hand excavations, this is where Cardno’s team is using smaller hand tools to remove the soil from on top of, and then around, the skeletal remains that are contained within those coffins, and then they will be documented in place,” according to archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck.
She believes that the team will uncover more graves as the project moves westward, but noted that some of these deaths could have been caused by the 1918-1919 flu pandemic.
“So we have to remain cautious and not get too ahead of ourselves in terms of our interpretations. So we’re working with our multiple hypotheses about what can explain the presence of a mass grave,” she said, noting that the deaths resulting from the massacre is “absolutely still a possible scenario.”
Stackelbeck indicated that the excavation might stretch out over several weeks because the team is not sure how many graves they will unearth. A city news release stated that once the corpses are exhumed, it will decide on the next steps toward “storing remains, DNA testing and genealogical research, and commemorating the gravesites and honoring the remains.”
The totality of the project could take months to complete. CNN noted: “The work — which will unfold behind a screening fence with researchers, cultural monitors, historians, morticians, a forensic anthropologist and a videographer — may take months, the city says. That’s not counting the efforts to identify the bodies and determine if they are indeed victims of the massacre.”
The 1921 massacre occurred in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, also known as “Black Wall Street,” when a black boy was accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl on an elevator. During a standoff between a white mob who were suspected of trying to lynch the young man after he was in jail and a group of black residents, a shot was fired resulting in a gunfight that left ten whites and 2 blacks dead. Nobody has confirmed who fired the first shot.
The girl who was believed to have been raped refused to press charges and stated that the black boy had not assaulted her.
After the gunfight, the white mob returned in greater numbers and proceeded to murder black residents of the city, burning down shops and residences, displacing about 6,000 black residents or more. Government officials counted 36 deaths according to autopsy records and death certificates. However, subsequent investigations found that there were more victims and the estimated total is closer to 300.
The excavation efforts and other investigations have shown that the number of black men, women, and children who were killed exceeds the number put out by the government. However, it is still unclear how many died in the attack. However, this project seems poised to get us closer to the truth.
I did a video debunking the notion that the dead counted by the government is the definitive number below.