Crews Set To Begin Scans For Possible Mass Graves From 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

Sunday, October 6th 2019, 10:07 pm
By: Erick Payne

Crews will start scanning Monday for possible mass graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Spots were identified as potential sites in 2001 in a state commissioned report.

There are no plans to do any excavations -- but that could change depending on what they find.

Crews will search four locations. The first scan will begin tomorrow afternoon at Oaklawn Cemetery.

It's a part of the city's history that's been shrouded in mystery. Now Tulsans are looking to finally uncover the reality about what happened during the Race Massacre 98 years ago. The number of deaths during the riots in 1921 has never been confirmed.

Crews will start this week at Oaklawn Cemetery. Next, they'll investigate Newblock Park as well as a place near that park, and Rolling Oaks Memorial Garden, which used to be Booker T. Washington Cemetery. 

Ground penetrating radar is often used in cemeteries to discover where remains may or may not be buried. The equipment can read up to 26 feet down below the grounds surface. Archeologists say they expect any graves to be about six and a half feet down.

"We are fortunate in 2019 that the technology in this field has advanced dramatically," Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said.

The City is encouraging people to come out and watch crews as they work. It's a way to bring transparency to a chapter of history that's been kept under wraps for too long.

They hope when the work is finished, they can finally bring some closure to Tulsa families.

"As someone who lives this city, it was just unimaginable that in a city in the United States of America, people could potentially be living around a mass grave and not be trying to find out if it was truly there or not," Bynum said.

If they do detect something, the City says you shouldn't assume there will automatically be an excavation.

The City and public oversight committee will have to decide how to move on to a second phase.