Workers in Tulsa, Okla., who were searching for bodies of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre discovered five coffins in a cemetery on Thursday (June 3), which brings the number of unidentified victims found buried in a mass grave to 20.
CBS News reports once an excavation and analysis is completed this week at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery, a formal exhumation of the coffins will proceed. Historians have said that as many as 300 people were killed in two days of violence on May 31 and June 1, 1921, led by a mob of racist whites who attacked the city’s Greenwood community, where a large number of middle class and prosperous African Americans lived.
There has never been an official death toll following the massacre. Residents, survivors and descendents alike have long searched and asked for help in finding where those killed in the terror were buried after the violence.
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In October 2020, an investigation found a mass grave that was believed to hold victims. After that discovery, the CIty of Tulsa partnered with the University of Oklahoma to begin excavating the cemetery, exhuming bodies, and, according to the Tulsa World, is expected to provide DNA testing to connect the dead with their relatives, generations removed.
As many as 30 bodies could be at the Oaklawn Cemetery site, state archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck told reporters.
"I hope that even though it's not going to be tomorrow and it's going to take us some time, I hope that we have answers and that I hope we can lend something to learning more about who these individuals are, who are in this unmarked mass grave that we didn't know about previously,” Stackelback said at the beginning of the excavation, according to local Tulsa station KOTV.
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