Photo: Getty
  /  11.05.2022

Researchers and historians are still learning about the scores of deaths caused by the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

The racially motivated attack on the Black, prosperous community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, took place over a century ago, but gravesites of potential victims are still being uncovered.

ABC News reported 24 additional unmarked graves were uncovered at the Oaklawn Cemetery last week. On Wednesday (Nov. 2), the city confirmed 21 adult-sized burial sites and three child-sized graves were discovered. 

In 2018, Mayor G.T. Bynum greenlit a project to excavate four locations — Oaklawn Cemetery, Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens, and Newblock Park and an area nearby — to find the burial sites of victims. Twenty-six death certificates were issued in 1921, but historians believe upwards of 300 adults and children were killed in the attacks. Nineteen unidentified bodies were found in 2019 and subsequently reburied.    

In a statement on the city’s site dedicated to the excavation project, Bynum said: “The only way to move forward in our work to bring about reconciliation in Tulsa is by seeking the truth honestly. As we open this investigation 101 years later, there are both unknowns and truths to uncover. But we are committed to exploring what happened in 1921 through a collective and transparent process – filling gaps in our city’s history, and providing healing and justice to our community.”

White mobs attacked Tulsa’s affluent Black community, known as the Greenwood District and Black Wall Street, after a Black man, Dick Rowland, was accused of assaulting white elevator operator Sarah Page. Fiery riots erupted between May 31 and June 1, 1921, and resulted in the destruction of more than 1,000 homes and businesses and countless deaths. 

Rowland was ultimately exonerated, but no one was ever charged for the destruction of the once-prosperous safe haven for Tulsa’s Black community. In 2021, three surviving victims testified before Congress and recounted the brutal attacks in hopes that it would help secure overdue justice.

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