Possible Mass Grave for Hundreds Killed In Tulsa Race Riot
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma believe they’ve uncovered a mass grave site from one of the worst massacres in U.S. history; the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
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Scott Hammerstedt, a senior researcher for the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, said at a public hearing Monday that a geophysical scanning in October identified a 25-by-30 foot area at Tulsa’s Oaklawn cemetery that appears to be a pit of some kind that may contain the remains of those killed in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Scans were completed at Oaklawn Cemetery, Newblock Park and an area known as the Canes, which is near the Arkansas River, according to ABC News affiliate KTUL.
“I’m as confident as I can be in the results that this is a very big candidate with something associated with the massacre,” Hammerstedt said at the hearing.
The Tulsa Massacre, later called the Tulsa race riot of 1921, is when white residents massacred hundreds of black residents and torched the “Black Wallstreet” neighborhood within hours. The riot was one of the most devastating massacres in the history of U.S. race relations, destroying the once thriving Greenwood community.
Black Wallstreet was home to hundreds of Black owned businesses like drugstores, movie theaters, hotels and more.
Many say the massacre started when a young, Black man, who was getting off the elevator, tripped and grabbed hold of a white woman to keep his balance.
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About 10,000 blacks were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property ($30 million in 2017).
Phoebe Stubblefield, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida, cautioned at the hearing that the number of bodies inside the trench could be anywhere from 10 to 100. She also said it’s unlikely that researchers will be able to identify any remains.
The city is also working with the private owners of Booker T. Washington Cemetery in Tulsa to gain permission to scan the grounds, which researchers suspect could be home to another gravesite.
A decision on the next step regarding the suspected graves won’t be made for at least a few months, as the public oversight committee on the graves is scheduled to meet again in February. But experts recommended that the city secure the sites in the meantime.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum initiated an investigation into rumored mass graves of the Tulsa Race Massacre in October 2018, calling the riots a “point of shame for our community,” NBC affiliate KJRH reported at the time.
One of the last known survivors of Black Wall Street was Dr. Olivia J. Hooker, who died earlier this year at 103 years old.
“I think I only went downtown one time,” recalls Hooker of the beauty of her old neighborhood. “Because we had everything we needed right in our neighborhood.”
During that time in Tulsa, white people wanted blacks to stay in their place and wanted nothing more than to…