Oh my. A SECOND excavation began Monday at a cemetery in Oklahoma to find and identify victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
“I realize we can tell this story the way it needs to be told, now,” said Phoebe Stubblefield, a University of Florida forensic anthropologist. She is also a descendant of a survivor of the massacre. ”The story is no longer hidden. We’re putting the completion on this event."
The violence happened on May 31 and June 1 in 1921, when a white mob attacked Tulsa's Black Wall Street, killing an estimated 300 people and wounding 800 more while robbing and burning businesses, homes and churches.
“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,” Stubblefield said. “Burning, thieving, killing wasn’t enough. They had to prevent Black people from recovering."
Her great-aunt Anna Walker Woods' home was burned and property was taken during the massacre.
“Personally, professionally, spiritually I have an investment in this,” Stubblefield added.
The two locations to be searched are in Oaklawn Cemetery in north Tulsa, where a search for remains of victims ended without success in July, and near the Greenwood District where the massacre took place.
The earlier excavation was done in an area identified by ground-penetrating radar scans as appearing to be a human-dug pit indicative of a mass grave. It turned out be a filled-in creek, said Mayor G.T. Bynum, who first proposedlooking for victims of the violence in 2018 and later budgeted $100,000 to fund it after previous searches failed to find victims.
The massacre — which happened two years after what is known as the "Red Summer," when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mobs in violence around the U.S. —- has been depicted in recent HBO shows "Watchmen" and "Lovecraft County."
According to state archaeologist Kary Stackelback, they have found two additional possible burial sites.
“We have multiple areas that we have identified as having merits for investigation,” Stackelbeck said. "We just have to ask for grace and patience."
“I’m fully prepared to find human remains,” she added. “The questions are just whether they’re the remains we’re looking for.”
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