Researchers Find Mass Grave at Oaklawn Cemetery with at Least 10 Coffins

Oct 21, 2020

Researchers discovered a grave shaft with at least 10 coffins in the course of their second round of digging at Oaklawn Cemetery, State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck announced on Wednesday.
Credit City of Tulsa

Researchers at Oaklawn Cemetery made a big discovery Wednesday, the third day of their second round of searching for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

"What we were finding was an indication that we were inside a large area, a big excavation area, a large hole that had been excavated and into which several individuals have been placed inside of coffins and buried in that location. This constitutes a mass grave," said State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck.

Researchers have found at least 10 coffins in the mass grave so far. Remains in them cannot yet be tied to the attack on Greenwood 99 years ago.

"Now, we still have a lot of work to do to identify the nature of that mass grave and identify who is in it, but what we do know as of today is that there is a mass grave in Oaklawn cemetery where we have no record of anyone being buried," said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum.

Researchers will leave the remains covered until they have a permit to exhume them rather than continuing with their original plan to expose them and begin analysis now.

"If we were to expose them right now, they would be exposed in such a fashion that their condition would potentially deteriorate, thus compromising our ability to fully analyze them," Stackelbeck said.

Researchers are also trying to figure out the boundaries of the newly discovered grave shaft.

The mass grave was found in the historical African American section of Oaklawn’s Potters Field.