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101 years after Tulsa Race Massacre, lab tries to identify human remains

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Published: Last Updated on
Nehemiah Frank and David McIntyre II
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In what became known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, a terrorist group of angry white men went on a rampage in Greenwood Oklahoma, slaughtering upwards of 300 unsuspecting and terrified ancestors who literally did nothing but develop their community into one of the wealthiest Black districts in the nation. 

Thanks to a lab in Salt Lake City, some affected families may finally receive the answers they’ve been denied for generations. In 2021 an Oklahoma commission approved for mass-grave buried bodies to be exhumed and identified and now Utah’s Intermountain Forensics are using their DNA expertise to connect past-to-present and bring closure to Black families.

“We’re very optimistic that we’ll be able to identify these people and bring answers to their families,” said Karra Porter, co-founder of Intermountain Forensics.

Soil Collection Ceremony

Soil Collection Ceremony of lynched victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. (Photo by Christopher Creese / The Black Wall Street Times)

Seeking answers for a century-old crime

In the last decade many African Americans have utilized DNA tests to discover our own lineage and oftentimes we’re left with more questions than answers, nonetheless, it’s important to know where we come from. It means something to have a foundation. To know the raw un-stepped-on truth. Yet we aren’t under any false pretenses, we understand full well the further back we go into history the uglier it’s likely to be, even still having the ability to possess the truth matters in a major way.

In 1921 many of the affected Greenwood families were very well-to-do and BOOM! Just like that, their entire life’s work and lineage was wiped out in the Tulsa Race Massacre. It’s hard to fathom an entire 35-block city here today and burned tomorrow. It sounds like something out of a TV show but that was the result of bloodthirsty weapon wielding and airplane bombing domestic terrorists who were allegedly told that a white women had been assaulted by a Black teenager. Quite interesting how they responded so critically to a theory about race. 

While conservatives continue to silence historical topics that provoke the slightest introspection, they stand in stark contrast to the mounting curiosity of African Americans at large who simply want the truth, whatever it may be and wherever it may lead. Strangely enough with the help of DNA forensics, those descendants of Greenwood’s most savage attacks may wind up learning more about their ancestors than the rest of us, and they deserve that at the very least

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