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1921 Graves Test Excavation to Begin Monday, July 13

This article was archived on 8/9/2020

The City of Tulsa will resume the test excavation for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Graves Investigation with the University of Oklahoma - Oklahoma Archaeological Survey (OAS) on July 13 at Oaklawn Cemetery, 1133 E. 11th St.

The test excavation is expected to take three to six days. Each day, work will begin around 7 a.m. and end at approximately 3 p.m. depending on the heat. On the first day of work, the team will conduct site preparations and begin the initial soil removal. The full test excavation is expected to begin on Tues., July 14. 

In early March, the City of Tulsa with the Public Oversight Committee, agreed to move forward with a test excavation in the sexton area in Oaklawn Cemetery, where the initial geophysical investigation identified a large anomaly consistent with a mass grave. The test excavation was put on hold in March when the University of Oklahoma halted all fieldwork in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a city, 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. In the past 99 years, no other agency or government entity has moved this far into an investigation that will seek truth into what happened in Tulsa in 1921,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said. “As we resume with the test excavation, we’re taking all precautions to do so under the safest environment possible. I’m thankful for the health and wellbeing of our partners who have diligently coordinated with our team to move forward with this work during the constraints of the pandemic and record heat we are expecting.”  

The test excavation is part of a feasibility study to determine the presence or absence of human remains, determine the nature of the interments, and obtain data to help inform the future steps in the investigation, including appropriate recovery efforts. Results will be documented, and a technical report will be issued by OAS. The Physical Investigation team will also conduct additional geophysical investigations in the coming months at Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens and The Canes where initial results warranted additional examination. 

Three goals have been established around the 1921 graves reexamination, including: public oversight, historical context and the physical evidence investigation. For more information on the process, visit:  

Guidelines During the Test Excavation

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