“The only way to move forward in our work to bring about reconciliation in Tulsa is by seeking the truth honestly. As we open this investigation 101 years later, there are both unknowns and truths to uncover. But we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through a collective and transparent process - filling gaps in our city’s history, and providing healing and justice to our community."
– Mayor G.T. Bynum
As the end of excavation and exhumation work approaches, three new burials were exhumed and taken to the on-site osteology lab today.
In total, eight burials have been exhumed since October 26 and 32 total burials have been found. Each of the eight burials that have been exhumed are continuing to be examined.
Members of the 1921 Graves Investigation Public Oversight Committee met today to discuss the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Investigation.
Intermountain Forensics, the consultant hired to complete the analysis from last summer’s excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery explained their genealogical process in the meeting.
The City is currently working on fieldwork preparations for the upcoming excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery. A date has not been set for the upcoming fieldwork.
Public Oversight Committee meetings are held every quarter. The next meeting date will be shared in the coming weeks.
Please view a video about the importance of the genealogy analysis and how the DNA process works:
If you have family stories, have taken a DNA test or would like to take one, or have a digital or written family tree, Intermountain Forensics would love to hear from you. Please visit the 1921 DNA website and fill out the online form. If you need assistance to complete the form, please visit any one of the Tulsa City-County Library locations.
For more information, visit www.tulsa1921dna.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can view past presentations and Public Oversight Committee meeting videos online.
In 2018, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced the City of Tulsa would reexamine the potential of graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as identified in the 2001 State commissioned report. Four sites were identified in the City’s examination: Oaklawn Cemetery, Newblock Park, an additional area near Newblock Park, and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens, formerly Booker T. Washington Cemetery. The City established three goals around the reexamination, including: public oversight, historical context and the physical evidence investigation.
A Public Oversight Committee was established to ensure transparency and community engagement throughout the investigation. The Committee serves in an advisory capacity to the City during key decisions throughout the investigation. The Oversight Committee is comprised of descendants of the Tulsa Race Massacre and leaders in Tulsa’s African-American community. A team of historians and scholars were also assembled to provide historical context for the work being accomplished and document the significance of this important work.
The physical evidence investigation was organized into two phases. The first phase was led by the State of Oklahoma Archaeological Survey through the use of ground penetrating radar, which has been used at Oaklawn Cemetery and Newblock Park. Radar showed stronger evidence of anomalies at two areas of Oaklawn Cemetery, specifically the Sexton area and the Original 18 site.
Twenty-six death certificates were issued in 1921 for African American victims of the Massacre; 21 of those victims were reportedly buried in Oaklawn Cemetery. Newspaper reports from June 2, 1921 (Tulsa Tribune and Tulsa World) indicate that 18 adult male victims were buried in Oaklawn Cemetery Section 20. This information is the guide the City of Tulsa has been using throughout the excavation process at Oaklawn Cemetery.
Following the City’s July 2020 test excavation and the City’s October 2020 discovery of multiple coffins in the Sexton area of Oaklawn Cemetery, the City and its partners conducted a formal excavation in summer 2021, which resulted in 19 exhumations of human remains. Remains were taken to the on-site osteology lab for analysis and 14 remains fit the criteria for further DNA analysis. The remains that were exhumed as part of the process were subsequently re-interred.
In hopes of finding more DNA to analyze, the City and its partners are preparing for further excavation work at Oaklawn Cemetery, with work scheduled to begin in fall of 2022.
As work continues at Oaklawn Cemetery, so will the geological survey work of Newblock Park and the Canes area, both of which have strong oral histories as being potential sites associated with Race Massacre burials. A date for that additional work is still being determined.
Media Share: Photos & Video
No courtesy is needed when using pictures, video and drone footage, from the test excavations at Oaklawn Cemetery.
Oaklawn Cemetery: Sexton Test Excavation
Oaklawn Cemetery: Original 18 and Clyde Eddy Test Excavation
Oaklawn Cemetery: Original 18
Rolling Oaks Cemetery (Booker T. Washington Cemetery)
Oaklawn Cemetery: Reburial
Oaklawn Cemetery: 2022