An excavation to determine where the bodies of an estimated 150 to 300 victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre are buried began Monday.
This will be the second such excavation led by the city this year. The first, called the Original 18 site, is located near two race massacre headstones in the historically Black area of the Potters Field section.
Ground-penetrating radar scans led officials to believe the area of the first excavation may have been a human-dug pit indicative of a mass grave. However, according to Mayor G.T. Bynum, it turned out to be a creek that was filled-in.
“The excavation earlier this summer was looking at a potential mass grave,” Bynum said. “What we’re doing this go-round is several locations within the cemetery, each of which is smaller in scale than what we had the potential to find over the summer.”
The second excavation is called the Clyde Eddy site, named after a 10-year-old boy who historians say witnessed victims being buried there 99 years ago.
“I realize we can tell this story the way it needs to be told, now,” said Phoebe Stubblefield, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida and a descendant of a survivor of the massacre who is assisting the search, told The Associated Press. ”The story is no longer hidden. We’re putting the completion on this event.”
The Tulsa Race Massacre (also called Tulsa race riot, the Greenwood Massacre, or the Black Wall Street Massacre) happened from May 31 to June 1, 1921. A white mob, many of them deputized and given weapons by city officials, attacked the thriving Black community. Killing an estimated 300 Black people and wounding an estimated 800, while looting and destroying homes and businesses in the city.
Officials made clear that if human remains were found in the new excavation sites, they would not be exhumed. Instead researchers will be looking for clues of trauma suffered by the victims.
The excavation is expected to last about a week.