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Third excavation of Tulsa's Oaklawn Cemetery uncovers more than 50 unmarked graves

An excavation site at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa.
Ben Abrams
An excavation site at Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa.

Tulsa’s third excavation at Oaklawn Cemetery for 1921 Race Massacre victims has wrapped up.

Oklahoma state archeologist Dr. Kary Stackelbeck and forensic anthropologist Dr. Phoebe Stubblefield updated the media on Friday, detailing what their teams have found.

“We have uncovered and delineated and mapped in 59 additional graves, all but two of which were previously unmarked,” Stackelbeck said.

Six sets of remains had been exhumed from the gravesites, with a seventh exhumed shortly after the media conference.

“Each individual that goes through my lab, the forensic lab,” Stubblefield said, “we sample for DNA, and we submit those samples to our colleagues at Intermountain Forensics.”

Stubblefield is confident the research area is in line with Clyde Eddy’s eyewitness account.

She also said examining some remains has been difficult.

“Preservation is different in the Clyde Eddy area,” she said, “the bones are much more fragile. We were able to obtain much less information from direct examination. It will require DNA analysis… and maybe a little hope and a lot of prayer.”

Brenda Nails-Alford, the designated descendant representative, was also in attendance and thanked the crew and the city for their efforts.

She also said the city’s releasing of surnames believed to be tied to living descendants of massacre victims have produced responses.

“There have been families who have reached out since we first introduced surnames,” Nails-Alford said, “it’s very, very important that, if family members think that they may have connections, that they reach out, because you never know. They may be related.”

The city is working with Utah-based Intermountain Forensics to help connect those who believe they have family ties to the massacre. The city is directing anyone who wants to provide information to www.tulsa1921dna.org or email info@intermountainforensics.com and enter the subject line “1921 Graves.”

Ben Abrams is a news reporter and All Things Considered host for KWGS.
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