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More coffins found in search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims

100 years since Tulsa race massacre
Commemorating 100 years since Tulsa race massacre leveled "Black Wall Street" 11:52

Crews searching a Tulsa cemetery for victims of the 1921 Race Massacre found five more coffins on Thursday, bringing to 20 the number of coffins found at a mass-grave feature there, city officials said. After much of the excavation and analysis is completed this week at Oaklawn Cemetery, city officials say a formal exhumation process is expected to start on Monday.

The search began last year, and researchers in October found at least 12 sets of remains in coffins, although the remains were covered back up for further study at a later date and authorities haven't yet confirmed they are those of massacre victims.

State archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck has estimated as many as 30 or more bodies could be in the site.

Tulsa Massacre
Excavation begins anew at Oaklawn Cemetery in a search for victims of the Tulsa race massacre believed to be buried in a mass grave, June 1, 2021, in Tulsa, Okla. Sue Ogrocki / AP

Not long after the massacre, the state officially declared the death toll to be only 36 people, including 12 who were white. But for various reasons, including contemporaneous news reports, witness accounts and looser standards for tracking deaths, most historians who have studied the event estimate it to be between 75 and 300.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden became the first president to honor the massacre victims in Tulsa. 

"For much too long, the history of what took place here was told in silence, cloaked in darkness," Mr. Biden said in Tulsa. "But just because history is silent, it doesn't mean that it did not take place. And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they can't be buried, no matter how hard people try."

In May, the last known survivors of the massacre called on Congress to consider paying reparations for the continued damage done to their Oklahoma community.  

"Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy" 43:55
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