Unidentified Remains Unearthed in Ongoing 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Investigation


In an active archaeological dig at the Oak Lawn Cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, researchers have uncovered the remains of two unidentified adults. This remarkable find forms part of the ongoing search for victims of the infamous 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre who have never been identified.

This ground-breaking dig progressed its third phase of excavation earlier this month. During the course of this stage, 22 grave shafts were exposed, revealing the newly discovered remains.

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Kary Stackelbeck, the state archaeologist, revealed that these two adults were discovered in basic wooden caskets. One was specifically earmarked for exhumation on the day of discovery, while the second followed swiftly under professional excavation on the subsequent day.

The investigation ventures forward with limited information. The burial locations and identities of persons interred are derived from funeral home records and death certificates. Stackelbeck stated that these records directed the team to expect a cabal of adult males, nestled in simple wooden coffins within the Oak Lawn Cemetery.

The implication of this, according to Stackelbeck, is that the exhumation process identifies coffins that deviate from these rudimentary records. If the coffins appear to deviate in elegance or decorative quality, investigators can infer that they are not linked to the victims they seek and can thus redirect their efforts.

This dig operates under the umbrella of the 1921 Graves Investigation, a dedicated endeavour to reveal the identities of the Tulsa Race Massacre victims. Previous excavations yielded substantial results; 35 burials were detected in June, 20 were exhumed. The phase tackling October and November saw the discovery and extraction of a further eight victims from the 32 exposed burial sites.

The catastrophic impact of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre was relative to the deaths of hundreds of African American citizens resident in the prosperous Greenwood district, colloquially known as Black Wall Street. This vibrant hub of Black economic activity was set ablaze by white rioters who pillaged and razed the district to the ground.

Historians attribute approximately 300 deaths to the massacre, with over 1,000 homes levelled in the process. The resultant scope of destruction left Black Wall Street obliterated.

Following the chaos, victims were hastily interred in mass graves by unknown individuals, while the bereaved families languished in detention under martial law. According to Scott Ellsworth, a respected historian from the University of Michigan, the families were never informed of their loved ones’ fates or burial locations, while funerals remained an unheard-of luxury in this cruel chapter of history.