Archaeologists Search for Tulsa Race Massacre Victims

The City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has allowed archaeologists to resume their search for the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Previously, Tulsa City officials launched an effort to find the victims in 2018, but it yielded no results.

The Tulsa Race Massacre occurred over 18 hours from May 31 to June 1, 1921. A white mob attacked residents, homes, and businesses in the predominately Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. History.

Tulsa was highly segregated at the time. Most of the city’s 10,000 Black residents lived in Greenwood, which included a thriving business district sometimes referred to as the Black Wall Street.

According to, on June 1, 1921, thousands of white people looted and burned the homes and businesses in the Greenwood District. After it was over, the Oklahoma Bureau of Vital Statistics officially recorded 36 dead. A 2001 state commission examination of events confirmed 36 dead, 26 Black and 10 white, but historians believe the death toll may have been up to 300.

The archaeologists identified the outlines of at least 10 coffins at Oaklawn Cemetery and were able to resume excavation. State archaeologist Kary Stacklbeck said she had a high degree of confidence that this was one of the locations they were looking for. Investigators have yet to confirm whether any of the remains belong to victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Historian Scott Ellsworth stated that bodies of the victims were buried by strangers in mass graves while the victims’ families were detained under martial law. Families were never told where their loved ones died or where they were buried.

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