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100 Years Later: 1921 Graves Excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery Begins June 1; Exhumation Details and Guidelines Released

This article was archived on 9/5/2021

1921 Graves Massacre Website

On Tuesday June 1, the City of Tulsa will begin a full excavation and analysis of the Original 18 site at Oaklawn Cemetery, 1133 E. 11th St. led by the University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS) and the 1921 Graves Physical Investigation Committee.

Due to the size of the grave shaft and anticipated number of burials, experts expect the excavation could take weeks or even months depending on the needs in the field. Additionally, the City hired Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors, Inc. and Cardno, Inc. for this large-scale excavation.

Oaklawn Cemetery will serve as the temporary re-interment site and the Public Oversight Committee will make recommendations for a permanent burial and memorial location for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims identified through this process.

On June 1, experts will start with mapping and site preparation and expect to begin excavations around 10 a.m. The excavation work will begin first with heavy machinery to remove the upper few feet of soil that lies over the burials. After the first day, experts intend to work at Oaklawn Cemetery Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The team of researchers and monitors from the Public Oversight Committee will be carefully observing the excavation process. There may also be some hand-excavation, use of metal detectors, and screening of excavated soil—depending on what is discovered during the first day. At the same time, other research team members will be working to set up on-site workstations for artifact processing and laboratory analyses.

Oaklawn Cemetery Signage/1921 Graves Investigation Video 

New to Oaklawn Cemetery beginning Wednesday, visitors will be able to learn more about the investigation by viewing signage that will be located near the fence line at 11th St. and the Midland Valley Trail and along 11th St. and Peoria Ave. The interactive signage gives visitors an overview of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the 1921 Graves Investigation, which also includes audio translations in English, Spanish, Zomi and Burmese by scanning a QR code.

Another prominent feature on the sign includes a QR link to a video that was produced by the City of Tulsa, which provides an historical account of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and City of Tulsa 1921 Graves Investigation. The video features Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Tulsa Council Chair and District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper, 1921 Graves Public Oversight Committee Chair and Descendant Kavin Ross and Greenwood Cultural Center Program Coordinator Mechelle Brown. Please view the video at:

Test Excavation Guidelines and Photography/Video

1921 Graves Search Background

For the most up-to-date information on the search for possible graves dating to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, visit: and follow 1921 Graves on Facebook, @1921Graves.