Tulsa Race Massacre: The Remains to be Exhumed For DNA to Identify Victims

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Tulsa Race Massacre: The Remains to be Exhumed For DNA to Identify Victims
Tulsa Race Massacre: The Remains to be Exhumed for DNA to Identify Victims

Efforts are being made by the scientists of Tulsa to identify the victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

The massacre took place in 1921, in which more than 1,000 homes were burned, hundreds were looted and a thriving business district known as Black Wall Street was destroyed in the racist violence.

Historians have estimated the death toll to be between 75 and 300, with generational wealth being wiped out. Victims were never compensated, however a pending lawsuit seeks reparations for the three remaining known survivors of the violence. 

The massacre is now more than 100 years old and considered as one of the worst known examples of white mob violence against Black Americans in the U.S. history.

The team of scientists plans to dig up some of the 19 sets of remains, which were initially exhumed a year ago from Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa, to test for more DNA.

Out of these 19 sets only 14 fit the criteria for additional DNA analysis, but just two of the 14 had enough usable DNA recovered to begin sequencing by Intermountain Forensics, which is examining the remains.

Intermountain Forensics plans to take DNA from the remaining 12. However, none of the remains recovered are identified or confirmed as victims of the massacre.

Danny Hellwig, director of laboratory development for Intermountain Forensics, a nonprofit foundation based in Salt Lake City, said on Wednesday that the DNA previously recovered from the remains had degraded during the time they were buried, creating a need for more testing.

He added that the work to develop a genealogy profile for the two remains with enough viable DNA is expected to start in about a week and could be completed within a few weeks, but efforts to identify the remains could take years.

Intermountain Forensics also continues to seek people who believe they are descendants of massacre victims to provide genetic material to help scientists find potential matches.

It has been informed that the latest search will end on 18 November. Then another search will begin for 18 bodies with gunshot wounds whose burials in plain caskets that were previously documented, but without information on where the caskets were within the cemetery.

In their excavation, they will be targeting the plain-casketed individuals who are male, based on reports from 1921.

The state Archaeologist who is leading the project, said that the search area is south and west of previous excavations conducted in 2020 and 2021.

The remains will be reburied, at least temporarily, at Oaklawn, where the previous reburial was closed to the public, drawing protests from about two dozen people who said they are descendants of massacre victims and should have been allowed to attend.

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