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OU Researchers Find Human Remains in Search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Victims

OU Researchers Find Mass Grave in Search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Victims

Five masked, hard-hatted workers wearing high-vis vests excavate a section of earth.

Archaeologists on Tuesday, Oct. 21 search for remains at Oaklawn Cemetery from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Image Credit: City of Tulsa

OU researchers announced today they have found the remains of at least 10 individuals in their search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Kary Stackelbeck, state archaeologist with OU’s Oklahoma Archeological Survey, said 10 coffins were located in an unmarked area of Oaklawn Cemetery, constituting a mass grave.

The discovery comes a day after the archaeologists located the remains of one individual in the same area.

“I am very grateful to have the foremost experts in the country working to locate the remains of victims from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre,” said Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Tuesday.

It remains to be determined whether the burials are associated with the Tulsa Race Massacre. To protect the integrity of the remains, Stackelbeck said excavation permits will be filed so the remains can be fully excavated and analyzed. Core sampling of the cemetery soil will continue so the boundaries of the burial pit can be determined.

The remains were discovered during the city’s second test excavation and core sampling, which focus on two areas at Oaklawn Cemetery. The remains were found about 37 meters from the first test excavation that took place in July. During that eight-day search along the western edge of Oaklawn in the Sexton area, OU researchers determined no evidence of human remains were present in the excavation area.

Last year, researchers from the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey began 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.

Beyond Oaklawn Cemetery, it is expected that more areas of interest will be surveyed by OU’s Oklahoma Archeological Survey team members, including “The Canes” near Newblock Park and Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens.

Stackelbeck and other archaeologists involved in the search will review their investigation at an Oct. 28 virtual discussion hosted by OU’s Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Coordinating Committee.

For the most up-to-date information on the search for possible graves dating to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, visit

By Kesha Keith

Article Published:  Wednesday, October 21, 2020