descendants mass grave tulsa massacre
J. Kavin Ross, Sen. Kevin Matthews, Vanessa Hall-Harper, and Bishop Melvin Cooper
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The digging is done, but the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Mass Graves Investigation carries on.

Descendants of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors removed remains of bodies from mass grave a few weeks ago at Oaklawn cemetery, and as of now their investigation team found 35 bodies out of the original 15 bodies they were looking for. So far, they have only excavated 19 bodies. Nine individuals have completed forensics analysis, with one set of remains found to have multiple gunshot wounds.

“Five of those 9 were juveniles and the remaining four were adults,” Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield said. “He is of African descent and he was buried in a plain casket and he was recovered with a bullet in place that we discovered in his left shoulder area.”

Examination and analysis begins

The Black male had the marks of multiple bullet wounds, and was found among a row of children’s graves. He was buried underneath, much deeper according to state archeologist Kary Stackelbeck.

Forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield said she has finished examining about half the remains and will finish examining the second half — including those with the bullet wounds — in the coming days.

According to the investigation’s latest press conference around two weeks ago, this will be the last news conference update for the Oak Lawn Grave Investigation. Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield and her team will stay behind and finish the forensic analysis. The investigation is now on a three week excavation pause as they continue to examine the bodies they have already dug up.

Findings drain descendants as they seek closure and restitution

When Stubblefield’s report is complete the investigation will come back, report their findings to the public oversight committee, and release a documented update to the public.

“This process has been a very sobering, very powerful experience,” Oversight Committee Chair and descendant Kavin Ross said. 

“I wish more people could go through what my colleagues and I have gone through these last couple of weeks. We are so hopeful for more findings. This is a very powerful situation where there was no documentation of the ones we did find, by the city or anywhere else, but I am so happy we did find these folks and whatever role they had in 1921. I am anxious to put them to a proper rest, and I thank you.” Ross added.

“I’m physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted,” descendent and Oversight Committee member Kristi Williams said. “But the work continues.”

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