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Excavation crew expands search for Tulsa massacre victims

UPDATED: Wed., July 15, 2020

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. — Crews searching for the remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre have yet to uncover any human remains and on Wednesday expanded the scope of the excavation at a city cemetery, the Oklahoma state archaeologist said.

The search at Oaklawn Cemetery thus far has revealed common household trash, animal bones and a shell casing that is not believed to be connected to the massacre, State Archaeologist of Oklahoma Kary Stackelbeck said.

“We are not at all disheartened by that because we have all these other lines of evidence” that include oral accounts of cemetery caretakers indicating victims of the massacre were buried in a mass grave there, Stackelbeck said.

“And of course, the fact that this location is the only portion of the cemetery that is devoid of marked burials in an otherwise full cemetery where every other plot is accounted for or occupied,” according to Stackelbeck. “We are fully committed to getting answers in this location … we are going to either find the victims in this location or we are going to determine that they are not here.”

Researchers on Monday began opening an area in the cemetery where ground-penetrating radar determined there was an anomaly consistent with mass graves.

The expansion of the excavation will include the use of an augur probe, which is a drilling device that will allow investigators to examine the soil below the more than 10-foot depth already excavated, according to Stackelbeck.

On May 31 and June 1 in 1921, white residents looted and burned Tulsa’s black Greenwood District, killing as many as 300 people. Many victims are believed to have been buried in mass graves.

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