Scientists, Historians Start Second Excavation At Oaklawn Cemetery With Optimism

Monday, October 19th 2020, 5:25 pm
By: Amy Slanchik

TULSA, Okla. -

Archeologists are picking up where they left off this summer with more excavations this week in the search for possible graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.  

Archeologists and historians are not just searching for mass graves during this week's search, but individual graves at Oaklawn Cemetery, too.  

The focus in this week's search is on two separate areas on the southern side of Oaklawn Cemetery.  

"These were fine, upstanding members of our community who simply wanted a piece of the American dream, but truly received a nightmare,” Brenda Alford, descendent of multiple massacre survivors and the investigation’s Public Oversight Committee Chair said.  

One area is called the "Clyde Eddy" site. Eddy went to historians in 1999 with a story from his childhood, when he was 10. Historian and Professor Scott Ellsworth shared what Eddy saw, during a news conference Monday. 

"There was a big trench. There were some large wooden crates. He peeked inside a couple of them and saw what he believed were three or four or two, dead African American riot victims,” Ellsworth said.  

Further west, the other site is called the "Original 18" area, which is adjacent to two 1921 race massacre headstones. The headstones belong to Eddie Lockard and Reuben Everett, both with death dates of June 1, 1921. 

Archeologists and historians hope this search will bring some answers about 16 other people expected to be buried nearby. 

"All of these people were somebody's husbands, somebody's son, somebody's brother, somebody's uncle,” Ellsworth said.  

Scientists said that search will be focused on looking for individual grave shafts instead of mass graves.  

"I'm very hopeful that we'll at least find individuals, these 16 individuals that are just hidden in an otherwise well-organized cemetery,” Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield said.  

If human remains are found, archeologists said they will not be removed from the ground right away. There is a legal process they must go through, including getting approval from a judge.