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Oak Lawn Cemetery Tulsa, Oklahoma (Photo by Nehemiah Frank)

Published 10/03/2019 | Reading Time 1 min 51 sec 

The initial ground penetration radar for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation will begin on Monday, Oct. 7 from 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at Oaklawn Cemetery, 1133 E. 11th St. in Tulsa. The work is being led by the State of Oklahoma Archaeological Survey based at the University of Oklahoma.

The public is invited to view the scanning at Oaklawn Cemetery, which will take place in the southwestern quarter of the cemetery. The site areas will be zoned off to create a perimeter to prevent any interference with the ground penetration radar equipment. The scanning team will be at Oaklawn Cemetery from Monday – Thursday, Oct. 7-10. On Tuesday – Thursday, their schedule is 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Parking will not be available inside Oaklawn Cemetery. On-street parking should be utilized in the nearby residential neighborhood located across 11th St. from the cemetery on S. Norfolk Ave. or at nearby Tracy Park. Individuals are asked to follow cemetery rules and Oklahoma Archaeological Survey guidelines while viewing the investigatory work:

  • Cell phones should be set on airplane mode or turned off if within 100 feet of the radar equipment.  
  • Photos or videos should be taken from a distance to not interfere with the radar equipment or work. 
  • Avoid touching any monuments or gravestones and be courteous to walk in between headstones and not stand on top of a burial place.
  • Avoid playing loud music and keep the volume of voices down. 
  • Children should be accompanied by an adult and pets must be leashed.

Once the ground penetration work is complete at Oaklawn Cemetery, the Survey team will move to Newblock Park. The City of Tulsa will send an updated schedule for Newblock Park at the end of next week. All scheduling information will also be posted on the 1921 graves webpage,

Shortly after the City of Tulsa announced the 1921 graves investigation would be reopened, the City established three goals around the reexamination, including public oversight, historical context and the physical evidence investigation. Four sites are included for ground penetration radar, including Oaklawn Cemetery, Newblock Park (and an area near Newblock Park) and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens, formerly Booker T. Washington Cemetery.

A Public Oversight Committee was established to ensure transparency and community engagement throughout the investigation and serves in an advisory capacity to the City during key decisions throughout the investigation. A team of historians and scholars were assembled to provide historical context for the work being accomplished and the physical evidence investigation workgroup was comprised of world-renowned experts in archeological geophysics, experimental archeology and settlement patterns. 

Once the results from the ground penetration radar are complete, the results will first be presented at an upcoming Public Oversight Meeting, which is anticipated to be in December 2019 or January 2020.

Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times and a descendant of two families that survived the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Although his publication’s store and newsroom...