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OU Researcher Featured on ‘60 Minutes’ for His Work on Tulsa Race Massacre Grave Search

OU Researcher Featured on ‘60 Minutes’ for His Work on Tulsa Race Massacre Grave Search

OU researcher Scott Hammerstedt was featured on CBS’ Sunday broadcast of 60 Minutes as part of a segment on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

Hammerstedt, a senior researcher at the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, and other archaeologists at the survey are using remote sensing survey methods including magnetometry, electrical resistance and ground-penetrating radar surveys to help the City of Tulsa find where victims may have been buried in mass graves.

The Tulsa Race Massacre – one of the deadliest acts of antiblack violence in U.S. history – took place nearly 100 years ago. It is estimated that as many as 300 people, mostly black, lost their lives and more than a dozen churches, five hotels, 31 restaurants, four drugstores, eight doctors’ offices, two dozen grocery stores, a public library and more than 1,000 homes were destroyed.

Hammerstedt spoke to 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley about the archeological survey’s discoveries that could lead to additional information about graves related to the attack.

Late last year, the research team identified four areas as possible mass grave sites – The Canes, the Sexton Area in Oaklawn Cemetery, Newblock Park and a privately-owned property. These areas were selected based on research by historians and other citizens who indicated that graves may exist there.

After completing initial surveys, a part of the Sexton Area of Oaklawn Cemetery was identified as the most likely to be a mass grave because of its size, high-amplitude ground penetrating radar reflections and abrupt contrasts with the surrounding soil.

Hammerstedt shared that it is still unclear whether this area is a grave site related to the massacre, and that more work still needs to be done to make that determination.

“It’s definitely not like CSI,” Hammerstedt said. “You don’t see individual skeletons. You just see disturbances and contrasts, which is why you can’t say necessarily that for sure it’s a common grave, but it’s very consistent with one.”

Test excavations were supposed to begin in April but were postponed due to COVID-19. As part of this phase of the process, the state of Oklahoma’s Medical Examiner’s Office will determine cause of death, which will be an important step to determine if the grave is related to the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Watch the full 60 Minutes segment here.

Scott Hammerstedt and Phoebe Stubblefield are interviewed by 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley

OU senior researcher Scott Hammerstedt and University of Florida research assistant scientist Phoebe Stubblefield are interviewed by 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley.

By Mackenzie Scheer

Article Published:  Wednesday, June 17, 2020