TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The examination of remains exhumed from a Tulsa cemetery has not yet confirmed that they were victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre, an investigator said Monday.
The remains of seven individuals have been received and six of those have been examined since exhumation began last week, according to forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield.
To confirm the remains are massacre victims, investigators are seeking signs of trauma and numerous males, based on accounts at the time.
“We need multiple male individuals who appear with gunshot wounds, evidence of gunshot wounds,” Stubblefield said. “That evidence could be actual changes to bone caused by gunshot wounds ... or it could be just the presence, internal presence, of bullets ... or bullets still in the casket area.”
An eighth coffin, believed to be that of an infant was also exhumed, but contained no identifiable human remains, according to Stubblefield.
“With the juveniles we just don’t always recover anyone ... the nature of juvenile bone, it doesn’t preserve as well,” Stubblefield said.
“Keep in mind, too, that we’re in a cemetery and the idea is we go to dust. And so we see that,” Stubblefield said. “They’re in the state they’re supposed to be in” after 100 years.
The search for mass graves of massacre victims in Oaklawn Cemetery has thus far uncovered 28 coffins and is ongoing, according to state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck.
The 1921 massacre occurred when a white mob descended on the Black section of Tulsa — Greenwood — and burned more than 1,000 homes, looted hundreds of others and destroyed its thriving business district. Most historians who have studied the event estimate the death toll to be between 75 and 300.