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1921 Graves Excavation Update - June 1, 4:45 p.m.

This article was archived on 8/8/2021

Today, the City of Tulsa began the first phase of its excavation and analysis of the Original 18 site at Oaklawn Cemetery led by the University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS) and the 1921 Graves Physical Investigation Committee.

Crews worked today to better define the boundaries of the mass grave feature that was discovered in October 2020 at the Original 18 site.

Work was done today utilizing a track hoe to remove the overburden (soil placed over the graves from the test excavation). It is believed remains are located anywhere from 3-5 feet below the overburden, and crews are working to remove a few inches of soil at a time to uncover those remains so further analysis can be conducted. 

Starting tomorrow, experts intend to work at Oaklawn Cemetery through Friday from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

For the latest news and information on the 1921 Graves Investigation, including photographs from inside Oaklawn Cemetery, visit and follow 1921 Graves on Facebook, @1921Graves.


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.

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, 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.