No Remains Of Massacre Victims Found During Now-Completed Initial Excavation Of Oaklawn Cemetery

Jul 22, 2020

The researchers conducting a test excavation at Tulsa's Oaklawn Cemetery, in search of a possible mass grave containing victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, have concluded that such a grave does not exist in the exact spot they investigated.

“At this point, we believe we have fully investigated this anomaly, and unfortunately we have not discovered the evidence of Race Massacre victims we were hoping to find,” said Kary Stackelbeck, Oklahoma's state archaeologist. (A geophysical survey performed with ground-penetrating radar found an "anomaly" the team said was consistent with the characteristics of a mass grave.)

The researchers, the investigation's Public Oversight Committee, City Hall, and descendants of race massacre survivors all said they remain confident and committed to continuing the search at other sites.

"Even if we had found victims in this initial site, we would still be doing further excavations at other sites," said Mayor G.T. Bynum. "That work would have continued regardless of what we found here."

“I entered this process with hope – hope of continuing the work of generations before us to uncover the truth of the Tulsa Race Massacre,” said Public Oversight Committee Chair Brenda Alford, herself a descendant of survivors. “I still have that hope: I know that we are just at the beginning of a long-term investigation for truth, and that we have a powerful team assembled that will continue that work.”

Other areas of interest include Rolling Oaks Cemetery; an area on the banks of the Arkansas River known as "the Canes"; and other sections of Oaklawn.

In a press release, City Hall said that a formal report on the investigators' findings will be compiled and unveiled at an as yet unscheduled Public Oversight Committee meeting, a date for which Alford said should be announced next week. Bynum said he would await recommendations from the researchers and the committee before announcing where and when any future excavations will take place.