Human remains found in search for 1921 Tulsa massacre victims

Experts searching for victims of the 1921 race massacre in the US city of Tulsa, have uncovered at least one set of human remains, a state archaeologist has announced.

The remains were found at the city-owned Oaklawn cemetery in Tulsa, Oklahoma, near an anonymous grave about three feet (one meter) deep, said Kary Stackelbeck.

Experts were analyzing the remains and it was unclear whether they belong to one of the victims of one of the deadliest ever massacres of African Americans, in which up to 300 people were killed when white mobs torched a black neighborhood.

The convulsion of violence nearly a century ago received renewed attention this summer when President Donald Trump held a controversial rally just down the road.

Other human remains possibly belonging to another victim of the massacre were also found in another part of the cemetery, Stackelbeck said on Tuesday.

“The fact that we have human remains that are discoverable and potentially recoverable, definitely is a good thing,” she said.

City officials in Tulsa decided in 2018 to try to find and identify victims of the massacre in an effort to confront one of the worst episodes of racial violence in the country.

An initial excavation in July at Oaklawn cemetery found no human remains and the city decided to expand the search in September.

The exact number of people killed during the massacre is unknown. Survivors reported seeing bodies thrown into a river, burned or buried in anonymous graves.

According to a 2001 report by the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921, city officials deputized and gave weapons to some of the white rioters that committed the violence. None of them were ever charged.

The violence started when a young black shoeshiner was accused of assaulting a white woman working as an elevator operator.

As newspapers jumped on the story and rumors spread, the white community in the Oklahoma city became enraged. Hundreds of whites demanding justice gathered outside the courthouse where the black suspect was being held.

Shots were fired, and bedlam broke out as white mobs attacked the black neighborhood known as Greenwood on May 31 to June 1, 1921.

A night of bloodshed ensued as gunfire rang out from both sides, black-owned stores were looted and torched, and homes of black families were shot up. (AFP)