Author Visits With Archaeologists In Search For Mass Graves In Tulsa

Monday, October 14th 2019, 8:13 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

Archaeologists from the University of Oklahoma, who are searching for possible mass graves from the 1921 Race Massacre, were joined Monday by author Scott Ellsworth.

Ellsworth, a Tulsa native, wrote the 1982 book "Death in a Promised Land,” which chronicles the events of the race massacre.

He was side-by-side with the archaeologists at Oaklawn Cemetery.

"I normally work with old documents or interview elderly citizens and things like that. Look at old newspapers and whatnot. So it was actually a thrill for me to be a junior archaeologist for a few minutes,” Ellsworth said.

The plan is for the archaeologists to move on to Newblock Park Tuesday and Wednesday. It’s possible the team could come back to Oaklawn later in the week.

The grandson of a former Oaklawn Cemetery caretaker came forward to a member of the Public Oversight Committee about the possibility of bodies being under streets inside the cemetery.

Monday’s focus was on finishing up what was scheduled for the day, including the trail area on the western edge of the cemetery that goes up against the IDL.

That area was brought to the city's attention last week and added to the list of places to search.

The Oklahoma Archaeological Survey could not use its gradiometer or its electrical resistance technology for the trail search. Senior Researcher Scott Hammerstedt said they could only use their ground penetrating radar there.

"Because it's the one piece of technology that we have that will penetrate the concrete and see if there's anything over there and satisfy the people that would like to see what's happening and do what the city wants to do,” Hammerstedt said.

The team is scheduled to be out at Newblock Park starting at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.