A team of archaeologists and forensic scientists investigating graves possibly linked to the Tulsa Race massacre announced their findings on Friday, which included the skeletal remains of children and a black man with multiple gunshot wounds.
The investigation by the 1921 Graves Investigation team began in July 2020 with archaeologists examining sites potentially linked to the massacre. The team then found 12 graves in October 2020 in the area of ”Original 18″, a location where funeral home records show at least 18 black victims of the massacre were buried. It was not until June 1 that the team began to unearth the graves at the site.
The team announced on Friday that a total of 35 graves had been discovered. Of these graves, 19 people were taken for forensic analysis, and nine of them were completed.
“Five of those nine were minors and the other four are adults,” said forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield, a descendant of a massacre survivor who is involved in the research. She added that one person was an older woman, while the ages of other adults ranged from 30 to 40.
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Stubblefield said the team is also examining the shapes of the skulls to determine their ancestry.
“So far when we can detect it, it is of African descent,” she said.
There was a black man found in a coffin who still had a bullet lodged in his left shoulder.
“He has an associated trauma,” Stubblefield said. “He has multiple projectile wounds … it affects his skull and possibly his left arm.”
Oklahoma state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck told reporters of the 35 graves only one was marked, while the rest had no record of name, age or cause of death. .
There is no exact number of blacks who died as a result of the Tulsa Race Massacre, which began on May 31, 1921 and lasted for two days. As many as 300 black residents were killed and more than 35 square blocks of the Greenwood neighborhood, known as “Black Wall Street,” were destroyed.
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Once the bodies have completed scientific analysis, the Mass Burials Public Oversight Committee will recommend where to permanently bury the people.
Kavin Ross, chairman of the Mass Graves Public Oversight Committee and descendant of a massacre survivor, said the process was a “very dark and very powerful experience”, and is hoping for further conclusions.
“There was no documentation of the few people we found, near town or anywhere. But I’m so glad we found these people,” Ross said. “I can’t wait to put them in a good rest.”
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.