TULSA, Okla. (AP) – Scientists seek to identify more 1921 victims Tulsa Race Massacre plan to extract more DNA from recently buried remains and test more areas as potential sites to search for additional bodies.
Remains found and exhumed from Oaklawn Cemetery last year and temporarily interred there will be re-exhumed for additional DNA samples in an effort to identify them, according to a report released to the Public Oversight Committee on Tuesday. Graves Inquiry of 1921.
The remains will then be interred in the same location, according to the report by state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck and forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield.
Additional graves in the cemetery will also be excavated and those in simple wooden coffins – believed to be the type in which victims of the massacre were buried – will be exhumed, according to the report.
“We are already making preparations,” Stubblefield said. “We don’t have a date, but we hope to be there this fall.”
The 1921 massacre occurred when a white mob descended on Greenwood, a predominantly black neighborhood in Tulsa, as violence erupted after a 19-year-old black man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a white woman in 17 years old in an office building.
A search the graves of victims of the massacre began in 2020 and resumed last year with nearly three dozen coffins recovered that contained the remains of possible victims.
Fourteen sets of remains were sent to Intermountain Forensics in Salt Lake City, Utah, for identification with two sets have enough recovered DNA to begin sequencing.
Scientists plan to conduct soil tests at two sites along the Arkansas River where victims of the massacre were believed to have been buried in mass graves.
Collecting additional DNA is an effort to provide enough to begin sequencing on the other remains.
None of the remains recovered so far are confirmed victims of the massacre in which more than 1,000 homes were burned down, hundreds were looted and the thriving business district known as Black Wall Street was destroyed .
Historians who have studied the event estimate the death toll at between 75 and 300.
The victims were never compensated, but a trial in progress calls for reparations for the last three known survivors of the violence.