Race Riot Commission Finds Mass Burial Site

Sunday, November 21st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Officials says they are one step closer to answers and bodies in a race riot that tore Tulsa apart almost 80 years ago.
The state commission investigating the Tulsa Race Riots says it is convinced a mass burial site exists at Tulsa's Oaklawn cemetery.

Archaeologists used ground radar and metal detectors strong enough to find coffin nails in Oaklawn Cemetery six months ago. Now they want to excavate and look for mass graves in the cemetery's southwest corner.

"The machines were picking up something... it may be belt buckles shoe buckles, something is there," says Eddie Faye Gates, race riot commission member.

Gates and other members say they are closer than ever to finding victims of the 1921 chaos, when Tulsa's black wall street went up in flames. Officially, three dozen people died, but those who were there say the number is closer to 300.

Archaeologists explored Oaklawn after a race riot witness said he saw some crates of bodies there after the riot. Radar showed a group of vertical walls 2 x 2 METERS which could be holding those crates. The Race Riot chair says the next step will be applying for a permit to dig up a small portion of Oaklawn.

Archaeologists say graves would uncover a wealth of information about what happened. Representative Don Ross led the charge in setting up the Race Riot Commission.

"Race relations for the betterment can evolve. Ultimately, we hope the truth brings enlightenment and to work for better race relations," says Ross.

People searching for answers also say it's time to heal the pain for the remaining 65 survivors.

The Race Riot commission will meet to discuss the possibility of graves at Tulsa's City Hall on Monday at 1pm.