TULSA, Okla. — Three weeks have passed since the burials of at least 12 individuals were found at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery. The team of scientists working for the 1921 Tulsa race massacre Investigation packed up, reburied their discoveries, and plot their next move.
The team will not return to Tulsa until 2021 because they are going through a lengthy, step-by-step process to get the discovered coffins back out of the ground.
“It could take a week per casket, just to get each casket out,” Phoebe Stubblefield, forensic anthropologist, said.
First, the team must get permission to dig the coffins back up.
“We are already in the process of inquiring into an exhumation order,” Stubblefield said.
They have to go through the state, and plan how the burials would be memorialized.
As she thought back on her work in the investigation, Stubblefield said, “People died in an event doing something for their community.”
The scientists first found the grave of one individual. They kept going and found 11 more coffins, which constitute a mass grave. The team believes coffins were stacked within the trench they exposed, but cannot prove that without further excavation.
The excavation at Oaklawn was focused on the southwest corner of the cemetery. Based on the number of individuals the team found there, they believe at least 30 more individuals are in the discovered mass grave.
Reverend Dr. Robert Turner will discuss the enduring impact the massacre has had on the historic Vernon AME Church and what the massacre’s 100th anniversary means for the Greenwood community. The event takes place on Thursday from 6-7 p.m. and it's only online.
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