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Officials start a second round of excavations to recover 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims

Officials will search for victims in the Greenwood District, where the massacre occurred, and in the Oaklawn Cemetery.

Tulsa Massacre AP

On Monday (Oct. 19), Tulsa officials kicked off a second round of excavations to recover bodies of victims from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, according to NBC News. Almost a century ago, hundreds of Black people were killed by a white mob who attacked Tulsa’s Black Wall Street — an area that was flourishing economically and culturally for African-Americans at that time.

“I realize we can tell this story the way it needs to be told now,” Phoebe Stubblefield, a forensic anthropologist who is also a descendant of a survivor of the massacre, told The Associated Press. ”The story is no longer hidden. We’re putting the completion on this event.”

“People, they were just robbed, white people coming in saying Black people had better property than they had and that that was just not right,” she continued. “Burning, thieving, killing wasn’t enough. They had to prevent Black people from recovering.”

“Personally, professionally, spiritually I have an investment in this,” added Stubblefield, whose great-aunt had her property taken and home burned in the massacre.

Officials will search for bodies in the Greenwood District, where the massacre took place, and Oaklawn Cemetery, where an excavation in July turned out to be unsuccessful. The earlier excavation began after a geophysical scan of the cemetery indicated there were underground anomalies consistent with a mass unmarked grave site.

If any bodies are discovered, they will not be disrupted. The excavation would pause and investigators would “do what they need to do to identify them and determine a cause of death,” said Mayor G.T. Bynum. “A hundred years after the fact, the descendants are scattered all around the world. Tracking down the descendants could take years.”

Archeologists have discovered two other spots which may be home to some of the victims. Kary Stackelbeck is leading the investigation and says that there are “multiple areas that we have identified as having merits for investigation.” She says that they just need to “ask for grace and patience” during the search.

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