Tulsa Massacre: Search for African-American Remains resumed

Tulsa Massacre: Search for African-American Remains resumed

In the 100th anniversary of one of the most shameful chapters in American history, investigators and descendants of the victims of an African-American massacre in Tulsa resume their search for the remains of people believed to have been hastily buried. in mass graves and forgotten by history.

While many of the details of those two terrifying days in 1921 came to light after being hidden by decades of silence from the perpetrators, the victims and their descendants, some basic aspects of the episode remain unknown, including the death toll and the names of many members of the burgeoning African-American community who perished at the hands of a white mob.

The state said only 36 people had died, including 12 whites. Most historians who have studied the subject, however, believe that there were between 75 and 300 deaths.

Black victims were almost always buried in nameless graves and even today the remains of many of them are sought to bury them properly and give them the recognition they deserve.

A WHITE TURBA DROPPED A NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE AFRO-STATES LIVED

“In many cases the bodies were disposed of, buried while armed guards detained loved ones in concentration camps,” said Scott Ellsworth, a professor of African American and African studies at the University of Michigan, who advises on the search and is one of leading experts on the massacre, which some describe as a riot.

After a white mob stormed the black neighborhood of Tulsa, Greenwood, burned more than a thousand houses, looted hundreds more and destroyed the commercial sector, more than 4,000 African-Americans were locked up for several days on the grounds of a fair and other sites and martial law was imposed.

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The bodies of the victims, some charred and unrecognizable, were buried in that period. His relatives could not recover his remains or confirm whether they had died or not, according to a state commission that investigated the episode in 2001.

After the initial shock passed, people forgot about the carnage.

Neither white people, out of shame, nor African Americans, out of fear, spoke openly about it for decades, according to Bob Blackburn, former director of the Oklahoma Historical Society who chaired the investigative commission.

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Rumors of mass graves, however, persisted and a commission was formed in 1997 to further study the issue.

In January 2000, he announced that a search would begin for the remains of the victims, but a few months later he backed off and gave up on excavating the sites where the remains were rumored. It’s a decision Ellsworth attributes to fear of generating negative publicity.

Current Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum, however, revived the project in 2018 and arranged to search for remains in Oaklawn and Rolling Oaks cemeteries, as well as The Canes, a homeless shelter near a park.

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Ground scans at those locations found anomalies, which may indicate mass graves.

Bynum, who is white, said it is important to search for the remains.

“There are generations of people who grew up in this community and never heard about it,” he said. “I feel a huge responsibility as mayor to try to find these people. It is something basic that any municipal government must do for the people ”.

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The search began last year and in October at least 12 sets of bodies were found in coffins at Oaklawn Cemetery, where most of the confirmed victims were buried in nameless graves.

They looked at the remains in the coffins and recapped them for later study. It has not yet been confirmed if they are remains of the victims of the massacre.

The search will resume on June 1 in the same area of ​​the Oaklawn Cementery, according to archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck.

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“If we are correct in determining the area where they would have been buried, what we excavated in October is a third or a quarter of the total area,” Stackelbeck told the Associated Press. “It is not illogical to think that there are about 30 bodies in the mass grave, although that is a conservative estimate.”

Most of the confirmed black victims were buried at the Oaklawn Cementery, records show, and mass graves found in a search of the Rolling Oaks Cementery could confirm eyewitness accounts that people had been buried there, said Phoebe Stubblefield, a senior forensic anthropologist. of the research team.

“(Rolling Oaks) It is a critical area because any remains found there, if we can determine the identities, it would confirm that there was a massacre,” Stubbelefield said.

Ellsworth said there were witnesses who claimed to have seen burial preparations there and estimates that there may be 50 to 60 victims of the massacre in that cemetery.

There is no consensus on what to do with the remains that can be found. By law, they should be handed over to the person’s descendants, who would decide what to do with them.

“With those who are not identified, there should be a memorial site, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” he said.

In any case, “if there is something that should not be done is to bury the bodies of victims of the massacre with those of the perpetrators of the massacre,” said Egunwale Amusan, a member of the commission that investigated the massacre and nephew of Mary Beard, who disappeared during the riots and is believed to have been murdered.

“Jews would never allow themselves to be buried in the same cemetery where Hitler is,” he said.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.