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Mayor: City to search three areas for possible 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre mass graves

Mayor: City to search for mass graves
Posted at 6:46 PM, Oct 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 06:03:06-04

Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum announced on his Facebook page that the city will search three areas for possible mass graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Bynum said the search began for him in 2012 when he was a city councilor.

Bynum said the city will look at three possible locations for the mass graves: Newblock Park, Booker T. Washington Cemetery and Oaklawn Cemetery.

"At Newblock Park, crews doing testing on the ground there encountered difficulty because of piping and underground infrastructure throughout the park," Bynum said via his Facebook page.

During the late 1990s, Bynum said marked graves at Booker T. Washington Cemetery were found in a "disturbed state" by researchers.

Bynum said on the western part of Oaklawn Cemetery, there is a grassy field with no marked graves.

"An abnormality was detected underground in that area that would be consistent with a mass grave," Bynum said. "Researchers cautioned that it could be a so-called pauper’s grave (in which Tulsans too poor to afford the cost of burial might have been buried in the early 20th Century) or it might be from 1921."

Bynum said "the path will follow three main lines":

- Using modern technology, in a minimally invasive way, too if there are unmarked graves at each site.
- If there are unmarked graves, determine the nature of the bodies - to see if they are from the Tulsa Race Massacre or not.
- If they are race massacre victims, to conduct a forensic examination on the bodies to determine their identities and cause of death.

"We do not begin this process with a certain outcome," Bynum said. "We may not find any mass graves. Or we may. Tulsans are compassionate and supportive toward victims of violent crime - and that standard should apply whether they are victims in 2018 or 1921. All Tulsans deserve to know what happened in 1921 - especially the descendants of victims. This is a matter of basic human decency."

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