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The search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre resumed Wednesday with the start of a second excavation of Oaklawn Cemetery.
Mayor G.T. Bynum stated a second cemetery excavation was suggested by the team of archaeologists, forensic anthropologists and DNA experts who participated in the initial excavation in 2021.
“A great deal of material and information was collected from that,” Bynum told a press conference at City Hall. “And then, based on that, our team of researchers came back to the city earlier this year and made a recommendation that we do a second excavation expanding the original area that had been investigated, and that is what we will begin today.”
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“The reality is with the nature of this, trying to find people who were deliberately hidden over a century ago after they were murdered, is very challenging,” Bynum added.
Mass graves search resumes at Oaklawn Cemetery
KTUL reported last summer’s excavation at Oaklawn found the remains of 19 people buried in an unmarked mass grave.
“We went back to seven individuals to obtain additional samples,” State archeologist Dr. Kary Stackelbeck said.
Those samples came from individuals who were found last summer, and revisited now for the purpose of extracting more DNA.
According to Tulsa World, researchers said they hope to gather more DNA samples from the 19 sets of remains exhumed — and later re-interred — from the southwest section of the city-owned cemetery last year. The expanded excavation area would extend to the south and west of the original excavation area.
If successful, the DNA gathered when compared with the DNA of relatives of victims could prove if this is a mass grave from 1921 massacre victims.
According to officials, they are expected to finish the Friday before Thanksgiving, Nov. 18, though the forensic work and reburial will occur likely after that time.