A mass grave dating back to the so-called Tulsa Massacre, when white residents of the Oklahoma town turned on their black neighbors, is said to have been discovered, researchers claim, according to CBS News.
During the 1921 riot, a large number of black men were killed, with estimates returning disparate figures of 36 to 300 dead. While only 39 dead black men were confirmed by a state commission in 2001, there are rumours that blacks were dumped in mass graves as authorities sought to cover up the hate crime.
Scott Hammerstedt, a senior researcher at the Oklahoma Archeological Survey, told CBS that his team surveyed two locations and discovered what they believe to be an underground pit large enough to contain up to 100 bodies.
“I'm as confident as I can be in the results that this is a very big candidate for something associated with the massacre," Hammerstedt said.
The scientists now plan additional surveys which they hope will lead to excavations.
"Even if the preservation is truly excellent, we don't know who we'll find in there," University of Florida forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield said.
#TulsaRaceMassacre Greenwood was developed on Indian territory and started by Ottawa (O.W.) Gurley. It was the oil capital of the world at the time. Greenwood wasn't a "race riot." It was about white people killing the Black people of Greenwood, so they could take what they had. pic.twitter.com/qWZPO7DD3S— Arrmia Benton (@ArrmiaBenton) December 17, 2019
Local authorities appear to welcome the study, saying this is the first time that the mass graves have been discussed from a scientific point of view.
"That's very powerful. That's the first time that we've had anyone say that from a technical standpoint in an open forum, in a meeting like this or to us," Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum said.
If excavations do find bodies of murdered blacks, the local black community has made it known that they would like to see the remains interred at a local church, one of the few places that survived the destruction of 1921, and where a memorial to the hate crime stands.
The Tulsa massacre returned to the spotlight thanks to the HBO superhero drama series ‘Watchmen,’ which, originally written in the late 1980s by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, revolves around racial tensions in modern-day Tulsa, Oklahoma. The series premiered on 20 October, 2019.