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Tulsa Race Massacre survivors ask for DOJ investigation amid search for mass graves

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Survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma are requesting the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate the century-old tragedy and the city’s efforts to find unmarked graves tied to the killings.

Justice for Greenwood, an organization that includes attorneys, massacre descendants and survivors and experts seeking reparations for the victims, organized a letter that was sent to the DOJ on Friday. They called on the department to investigate the massacre and intervene in the city of Tulsa’s excavation for mass graves.

“There are innumerable reasons why the Department of Justice should intervene in this case, but a few stand out. First, the City perpetrated the massacre and then led the cover up of the massacre for 75 years. Over the last 20 years and currently, the City’s official position is they are not responsible for the horrendous loss of life, land, or livelihood that they caused,” the letter reads. “How can the City be trusted to handle this mass grave search with integrity, with the proper respect, and most importantly, with the accountability that is necessary for healing and justice?”

The letter also argued that Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, where the city had been searching for remains, should not be “investigated by the very perpetrator(s) of the crime, let alone entities we know have failed to adequately investigate and prosecute those responsible for the crimes.”

“Now, in the year of the Massacre’s centennial anniversary, we hope to change that, which is why we are calling on the DOJ to bring the integrity of the federal government to Tulsa to help heal these century-old wounds, by conducting a meaningful and objective investigation into the Massacre and answering questions that have long gone unresolved,” the letter adds. 

The city of Tulsa began excavating areas of Oaklawn Cemetery last year in an effort to find unmarked graves of those who died after a white mob went into a predominantly Black neighborhood dubbed “Black Wall Street,” killing residents and burning businesses.

About 35 city blocks were destroyed in the rampage. Oklahoma originally recorded 36 deaths in the attack, but a 2001 commission revealed that the number of fatalities could be as high as 300.

This year, protests broke out in July when the remains of 19 people previously exhumed were reburied by officials. Many protesters argued the city should have held a formal funeral.

Michelle Brooks, communications director for Tulsa, told The Hill that she cannot comment on the letter due to pending litigation involving the city.

A DOJ spokeswoman told The Washington Post that it had “received the request filed by descendants of the Tulsa race massacre and we are reviewing it.”

The Hill has reached out to the DOJ for comment.

Tags DOJ mass graves Oklahoma Tulsa tulsa race massacre

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