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1921 Graves Core Sampling and Second Test Excavation to Begin Monday, Oct. 19; Additional Test Excavation Details, Guidelines Released

On Mon., Oct. 19, the City of Tulsa will begin the second test excavation and core sampling for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation with members of the University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS) and the 1921 Graves Physical Investigation Committee at Oaklawn Cemetery, 1133 E. 11th St.

The test excavation is expected to take up to one week. Work is expected to begin around 7:30 a.m. each day and end around 5:30 p.m. each day.

The work will focus on two areas at Oaklawn. A test excavation will take place at the Original 18 site, located adjacent to two 1921 race massacre headstones in the historical African American section of the Potters Field. Funeral home records and other documents for 1921 show that at least eighteen identified and unidentified African American massacre victims were buried in the city-owned cemetery. A core sampling, and possible test excavation, will simultaneously take place at the Clyde Eddy site, also located in the southwest section of the cemetery. As a ten-year-old, Mr. Eddy witnessed the burial of massacre victims at Oaklawn. The work at both sites is intended to determine whether massacre victims were buried at either location.

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. Geophysical work and one test excavation have taken place so far.

The first test excavation in July 2020 was completed in the Sexton area (along the western edge of Oaklawn). In July, archaeological crews conducted an extensive test excavation and a number of soil core samples within the Sexton area at Oaklawn Cemetery, where an anomaly found in the geophysical phase was previously discovered. Following eight days of searching, their findings determined no evidence of human remains were present in the excavation area.

Beyond Oaklawn Cemetery, multiple sites of interest remain and are still candidates for possible graves related to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre including ‘The Canes’ near Newblock Park and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens, where geophysical work is expected to occur.

News Conferences and News Updates
A news conference with members from the Physical Investigation Committee will be held on the first and last day of the test excavation. In respect of the Committee’s time, there will not be scheduled daily news conferences unless there are major findings to share, but the City will share a daily update by 4 p.m. from the experts at Oaklawn Cemetery on the City of Tulsa Facebook page, @CityofTulsaGov. The City will inform the media if additional news conferences will he held throughout the week. All news conferences will be streamed live on the City’s Facebook page.

The initial news conference will be held on Mon., Oct. 19 at noon at the Tulsa Fire Museum, 1010 E. 8th St., located just north of Oaklawn Cemetery. Speakers include Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, Brenda Alford, Public Oversight Committee Chair, Kary Stackelbeck, State Archeologist of the State of Oklahoma, Scott Ellsworth, Historian and Professor of African American and African Studies at the University of Michigan and Phoebe Stubblefield, 1921Tulsa Race Massacre Descendant and Forensic Anthropologist at the University of Florida.

Only credentialed media will be allowed inside the museum for news conferences. Chairs will be placed 6 ft. apart inside the museum to allow for social distancing and all inside guests will be required to wear cloth face coverings. It is preferable for news outlets to limit one crew at a time at the media briefings when possible to limit the numbers of individuals inside the Tulsa Fire Museum.

Photo/Video

Historians, including members on the Investigation’s Historical Context Committee, will be on site along with a videographer from the City of Tulsa to track progress and take pictures/video of the process. Photos, videos and drone footage from the City’s videographer will be uploaded to a public shared drive that anyone can download and use. A link to that shared drive will be available at: www.cityoftulsa.org/1921graves.

Additionally, the City will be providing a live video feed inside Oaklawn Cemetery of the site preparations and test excavation. The feed will be live only during the hours when researchers are on site. Please be prepared for any possible blackouts that could occur on the live feed, whether from the weather conditions or from possible remains being excavated from the site. A link to that live feed will be available at: www.cityoftulsa.org/1921graves.

Test Excavation Guidelines

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: www.cityoftulsa.org/1921graves and follow 1921 Graves on Facebook, @1921Graves. A public shared drive, including pictures, video and drone footage, from both test excavations at Oaklawn Cemetery will be available on the 1921 Graves website. No courtesy is needed when using images and videos from that drive.