Anthropologists investigating a mass grave near the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre announced on Friday that the remains of a Black man with gunshot wound to his head and shoulders were discovered during the excavation. Officials also said at least five sets of remains that have been examined belonged to juveniles.
Historians believe as many as 300 people died and more than 800 were injured in the Tulsa Race Massacre that devastated the affluent Black Greenwood community 100 years ago.
Oklahoma archeologists and forensic scientists began to excavate a section of the Oaklawn Cemetery in October. The area was thought to be the site of 18 Black victims of the massacre.
Upon the conclusion of the archeological search, investigators had discovered 19 sets of remains, and officials announced on June 25 that nine sets had undergone complete examinations. According to The Washington Post, 35 coffins were recovered.
“Five of those nine were juveniles,” lead anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield said during news conference on Friday. “The remaining four are adults. One was an older female. The others were adults who range in age from 30s to their 40s.”
The remains of the man with evidence of bullet wounds was discovered among a row of juveniles’ graves, but lower, and have not been examined yet. The damage from the bullet wounds is seen in the head and arm and one bullet was recovered from the man’s shoulder.
“He has multiple projectile wounds,” said Stubblefield.
While the excavation did not reveal the mass grave believed to exist somewhere in the area, it appears to have verified the location of the “Original 18” victims of the massacre.
Officials believed 18 Black people whose names are listed on a ledger at a white-owned funeral home may have been buried in the unmarked graves, ones the funeral home never plotted precisely.
Officials didn’t exhume the remains from all 35 coffins, and they believe not all of the bodies are connected to the massacre. Some of the remains of women and children were buried in better quality coffins, and investigators were primarily looking for men buried in cheap coffins.
Over an 18-hour period between May 31 and June 1, 1921, white mobs attacked, burned and looted the thriving business district that be me known as Black Wall Street. Thousands of survivors were left homeless, and reports of what occurred were largely silenced in the media.
The violence began after a Black teenager was accused of assaulting a white teenage girl. Some whites were deputized during the massacre, and no white person has ever been charged in connection to any of the violent acts committed that night.
Archeologists initially searched for remains in July in the Oaklawn Cemetery but no remains were discovered. The second excavation, which began in October, is an expansion of the earlier search.
Kristi Williams, a member of the Tulsa Mass Graves Public Oversight Committee, said her goal is to find out more information about the remains of those found in the gravesite.
“Right now, the priority is to find out who these remains belong to and why were they there undocumented,” she told The Washington Post.
A report on the cemetery is expected in the coming months.