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Tulsa’s mayor proposes $100K for 1921 race riot graves probe

April 25, 2019

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — The mayor of Tulsa has included $100,000 in his upcoming budget for investigations of three grave sites that could hold the remains of people killed in the 1921 race riots.

Tulsa’s Black Wall Street was one of the worst race-related massacres in U.S. history. Up to 300 people are estimated to have been killed.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said the money would fund the first stage of the project to re-examine the sites at Oaklawn Cemetery, Rolling Oaks Memorial Gardens and property near Newblock Park, the Tulsa World reported. Bynum added that he and City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper agreed it would be crucial to have citizen supervision of the process.

“We recognized quickly that there are two tracks. There is the technical track, which by far is the easiest part of it, and there is the community aspect, which is more of a challenge,” the mayor said.

The city has not said when the investigations will begin. The plan will be presented at a future town hall meeting, but a date has not been determined.

Bynum declared in October that the city would re-examine the sites, which were last inspected in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Tulsa Race Riot Commission ran that study.

But the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, which helped in the original examinations, and the state Medical Examiner’s Office will now head the project.

“The technology we have available (today) is light years from what they had available to them” 20 years ago, Bynum noted.

Digging will happen if anomalies compatible with mass graves appear at any of the sites.

“As soon as any human remains are found, that is when it gets forwarded over to the state Medical Examiner’s Office,” Bynum said, adding that the city was told identifying people found in old graves could take five to 10 years.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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