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Tulsa Mass Graves Investigation to Examine 1921 Race Massacre

tulsa city skyline at night
A Tulsa investigation will search for mass graves linked to the 1921 race massacre in the Oklahoma city. (Jbdphotography/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 03 October 2018 11:58 AM

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Tuesday his plans to re-visit investigations for possible mass graves from the 1921 massacre, the Tulsa World reported.

City officials have identified three sites which they plan to examine as part of their investigations — property near Newblock Park; Oaklawn Cemetery, which was formerly known as formerly Booker T. Washington Cemetery; and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens.

Bynum explained in a Facebook post that, in previous investigations, testing crews encountered difficulties while examining the site in Newblock Park because of piping and underground infrastructure.

At the second site at Booker T. Washington Cemetery, marked graves were discovered "in a disturbed state" by researchers in the 1990s.

At the third site by Oaklawn Cemetery lies a grassy field and, although there are no marked graves, researchers have detected an underground area that "would be consistent with a mass grave."

Bynum's decision to re-visit investigations of the Tulsa race massacre victims' graves has been a long time coming.

Six years ago, he and former city councilor Jack Henderson discussed the findings of excavation work performed a decade ago by former state archaeologist Bob Brooks.

The information was handed over to the city administration, however, Bynum noted that nothing ever came from it.

"I promised myself that if I ever became mayor and had the authority to direct further examination I would," he said on Facebook. "Now I am. In recent months my staff and I have discussed a path forward with archaeological experts."

Bynum said they would be meeting with councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper and other city officials in the next few weeks to solidify the plan and establish a timeline.

He highlighted three stages of the investigation, which would start by determining if there are unmarked graves at each site through the use of minimally invasive technology.

If unmarked graves are found, experts will then examine the bodies to see if the causes of death are consistent with the massacre.

The final step will entail forensic examination on the bodies to determine possible identities.

The Tulsa Race Riot is regarded as one of the deadliest riots in U.S. history and worst incident of racial violence.

Taking place over 18 hours, from May 31 to June 1, hundreds were killed and thousands left homeless when a white mob attacked residents and businesses in the predominantly black neighborhood, National Geographic reported.

Bynum said the outcome of the investigation was uncertain.

"We may not find any mass graves. Or we may," he posted to Facebook. "Tulsans are compassionate and supportive toward victims of violent crime - and that standard should apply whether they are victims in 2018 or 1921. All Tulsans deserve to know what happened in 1921 - especially the descendants of victims. This is a matter of basic human decency."

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TheWire
In Tulsa, the possibility of mass graves is the topic of an investigation that will look for evidence tied to the 1921 race massacre in the Oklahoma city.
tulsa, mass, graves, investigation
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2018-58-03
Wednesday, 03 October 2018 11:58 AM
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