City to Scan Potential Race Massacre Grave Sites This Summer

Thursday, June 27th 2019, 11:21 pm

98 years after the Race Massacre, Tulsans are getting closer to the possibility of uncovering part of the city's history.

"The fact that we had generations of Tulsans growing up in this community where no one talked about this, is a disgrace,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday at a Mass Graves Investigation meeting.

The meeting, held at the 36th Street North Event Center, was the first public meeting about the mass graves investigation. People with questions and personal stories spoke to the Public Oversight Committee, made up of community leaders and descendants of survivors.

Using a magnifying glass to read her notes, Carolyn Prewitt shared what her mother, who lived near Oaklawn Cemetery, saw looking out the window almost a century ago.

"Mother peeked out and she saw them, the truckloads of black people, and she saw them dump them into a common grave at the cemetery,” Prewitt said.

This summer, the city hopes to start using a ground-penetrating radar to scan over the Oaklawn Cemetery, Newblock Park and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens to look for potential mass graves.

Related Story: City Of Tulsa Holds Public Meeting On Possible Mass Graves From Tulsa Race Massacre 

Last year, Mayor Bynum announced the City of Tulsa would reexamine the potential of mass graves at those three sites, identified in a 2001 State commissioned report. The scanning will be led by the State of Oklahoma Archaeological Survey.

Tulsa Deputy Mayor Amy Brown explained the ground-penetrating radar can read up to eight meters down. She went on to say archeologists said they expect the graves to be about two meters underground.

"The technology is far advanced from where it was the last time anybody looked at this,” Bynum said.

The city says it's important not to assume excavation would be the next step. A lot of decisions will have to be made about the proper way to honor any remains found

"We want to tell the stories of those Tulsans and who they were before 1921,” Bynum said.

The number of deaths has never been confirmed.

All future meetings about the mass graves will be public and leaders say the decisions will be made in public as well.

The meetings will be live-streamed on city's website and the next one is July 18th.

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