Human remains found in search for victims from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre

Southwest

OKLAHOMA CITY (NewsNation Now) — One set of human remains, and perhaps a second, have been found in a Tulsa cemetery where investigators are searching for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Oklahoma state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck said Tuesday.

“We do have one confirmed individual and the possibility of a second” body found, Stackelbeck said. “We are still in the process of analyzing those remains to the best of our ability. … We don’t have a whole lot of details,” Stackelbeck said.

The confirmed human remains were found little more than 3 feet (90 centimeters) underground in an area known as the “Original 18,” where funeral home records show massacre victims are buried.

It is not yet known if the remains, which were found in a wooden coffin, are of a victim of the massacre, Stackelbeck said.

“We are still analyzing what has come out of the ground at this point in time and so no, unfortunately, we have not been able to assess the trauma at this point in time, or potential trauma,” that would indicate the person was among the massacre victims.

After an examination of the remains, they will be returned to the coffin and reburied, Stackelbeck said.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, who first proposed looking for victims of the violence in 2018 and later budgeted $100,000 to fund it after previous searches failed to find victims has said efforts will be made to find any descendants of the victims who are identified.

For one Oklahoma state senator, it’s a step toward unmasking for what was for years a dark secret.

“There’s more examination that needs to happen, but it’s an intriguing story and a mystery that we need resolved,” said Sen. Kevin Matthews (D-Tulsa). “Because as Black people living here and living among descendants we feel like those bodies need a natural burial. Just as anyone any dignified American should have.”

Oaklawn Cemetery in north Tulsa, where a search for remains of victims ended without success in July and where the excavation resumed Monday, is near the Greenwood District where the massacre took place.

The violence took place on May 31 and June 1 in 1921, when a white mob attacked Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, killing an estimated 300, mostly Black, people and wounding 800 more while robbing and burning businesses, homes and churches.

The massacre — which happened two years after what is known as the “Red Summer,” when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mobs in violence around the U.S. — has been depicted in recent HBO shows “Watchmen” and “Lovecraft County.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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