Story at a glance

  • In 1921, mobs of white people killed dozens of Black residents and destroyed a thriving Black community during the Tulsa Race Massacre.
  • After 99 years, an investigation has identified potential sites of mass graves, but excavation was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The city restarted the excavation in July and is now moving onto a second excavation.

A second test excavation began this morning in Tulsa, Okla., searching for victims of the city’s 1921 race massacre.

“I’m fully prepared to find human remains,” Phoebe Stubblefield, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida, told The Associated Press (AP). “The questions are just whether they’re the remains we’re looking for.”  


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Members of the University of Oklahoma archaeological survey team and the 1921 graves investigation committee will work from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. each day for at least a week, maybe two, searching for evidence of human remains. 

“Personally, professionally, spiritually I have an investment in this,” Stubblefield, whose great-aunt Anna Walker Woods had her home burned and property taken during the massacre, told AP. 

After the city began reexamining the potential of mass graves following the Tulsa Race Massacre, an investigation determined two locations for archeological testing and excavation. The first test excavation, which was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, was completed in July along the western edge of Oaklawn cemetery, known as the Sexton area. But after eight days of searching, there was no evidence of human remains. 


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Now, the excavation has moved onto a site adjacent to two 1921 race massacre headstones in the historical African American section of the cemetery, known as the site of the “Original 18.” These were the 18 Black people listed on a ledger of a funeral home that billed the County of Tulsa $25 for the burial of each Black body in June 1921. Another core sampling and potential excavation will examine the Clyde Eddy site, whose namesake witnessed the burial of massacre victims at Oaklawn at the age of 10, according to a release from the city

“My family was here during the massacre. We know what was taken. We know the bodies that have not been found," Mass Graves Oversight Committee member Greg Robinson told a local news outlet.


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Published on Oct 19, 2020