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A test excavation for a potential mass grave from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre will begin next week

Andrew Cuomo

A test excavation for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre investigation for mass graves will resume next week.

The test excavation, which was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, is part of a study to determine the presence or absence of human remains in the area, and, if found, what state they are in.

The initial geophysical investigation at the site identified a large anomaly consistent with a mass grave.

The excavation was announced in a release from the Tulsa Mayor’s office on Monday.

“As a city, we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through a collective and transparent process – filling gaps in our city’s history and providing healing and justice to our community. In the past 99 years, no other agency or government entity has moved this far into an investigation that will seek truth into what happened in Tulsa in 1921,” Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said in the release.

Expecting to take three to six days, the test excavation will begin with site preparations and initial soil removal with the full excavation beginning Tuesday, July 14. It will conducted at Oaklawn Cemetery by the City of Tulsa along with the University of Oklahoma – Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS).

Mayor Bynum announced in 2019 that the City of Tulsa would reexamine the potential graves at four sites from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Updates to each day’s work will be posted on the city’s Facebook page as well as the 1921 graves website.

About the massacre

The Tulsa race riot of 1921, also called the Tulsa race massacre, resulted in the death of hundreds of African American residents of the city’s Greenwood district — then a black economic hub — when a mob of white rioters looted and burned the community.

Historic accounts say the violence was sparked by a confrontation between a black resident and a white man who was one of a group of angry white residents demanding the lynching of a young black man. A conflict between the two men resulted in a struggle over the white man’s gun. Ultimately, the white man was shot, and hell broke loose in Tulsa.

An estimated 10,000 white people flooded into Greenwood, looting, burning, shooting, and, in some accounts, bombing black residents.

Following the attack, 35 city blocks were burned, over 800 were injured, and as many as 300 people were dead, according to the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum.

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