In Tulsa, Oklahoma, scientists have revealed that they have found inconsistencies and irregularities in the city’s grounds that indicate the location of mass graves of Black victims of the 1921 Tulsa/Greenwood massacre. Using ground-penetrating radar, scientists have zeroed in on two sites that they believe are consistent with massive burials.
The massacre claimed the lives of over 300 Black people and was sparked when local Blacks tried to fend off a gathering mob from one of their own who had been falsely accused of assaulting a White woman.
Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, as it has come to be known, was filled with Black-owned businesses, including restaurants, grocery stores, and tailors and was a self-contained community. Many Blacks who survived said the murders and wanton destruction of their community were motivated by jealousy and that the riot served as an excuse.
Tulsa Blacks enjoyed a measure of economic and social independence that offended the sensibilities of Whites at the time, who considered Blacks beneath them.
“It was May 31, 1921,” said Olivia Hooker, who died in 2018 at the age of 103. “At first, we saw a bunch of men with those big pine torches come through the backyard. It was a horrifying thing for a little girl that’s only six years old, trying to remember to keep quiet so they wouldn’t know we were there. They were trying to destroy anything that they could find. They took a huge axe and started whacking at my sister Aileen’s beloved piano. They thought that was something we shouldn’t have.
“They tried to destroy every Black business, school, and church,” Hooker continued. “Our school, Dunbar School, was blasted with dynamite, and my father’s store was destroyed. To me, I guess the most shocking thing was seeing people to whom you had never done anything to irritate, who just took it upon themselves to destroy your property because they didn’t want you to have those things… They were teaching you a lesson.”
Hooker was the last living survivor of the massacre.
The MSR will continue to follow this story as it develops.