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OU Archaeologists Lead 1921 Graves Excavation in Tulsa

OU Archaeologists Lead 1921 Graves Excavation in Tulsa

Two researchers in safety gear at the Oaklawn site Tulsa, OK

Scott Hammerstedt and Kari Stackelbeck with OU’s Oklahoma Archeological Survey begin excavation work at Oaklawn Cemetery on June 1, 2021. Image Credit: City of Tulsa

In the effort to determine whether a mass grave discovered last fall is linked to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, OU archaeologists are helping lead the process of exhuming the remains.

The full excavation and analysis of a site at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, led by the University of Oklahoma – Oklahoma Archeological Survey and the 1921 Graves Physical Investigation Committee, began June 1. Kary Stackelbeck, Ph.D., state archaeologist with OU’s Oklahoma Archeological Survey, leads the interdisciplinary team working on the project.

Last October, Stackelbeck and the research team conducted test excavations at the site, finding the remains of at least 10 individuals in an unmarked area of the cemetery. Due to the size of the grave shaft and anticipated number of burials, the excavation phase could take weeks or even months.

The group is working in conjunction with the City of Tulsa and a Public Oversight Committee, comprised of descendants of victims of the massacre and leaders in Tulsa’s African American community.

In the video below from last October, Stackelbeck explained the importance of the investigation to her and to the broader community.

“For me professionally, I can say that there will probably never be anything like this that I work on that is as important as this investigation,” she said in the video.

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

By Bonnie Rucker

Article Published:  Wednesday, June 2, 2021