TULSA, OK. — After helping to discover several missing or hidden African American graves in Tampa, local Archaeologists are in Tulsa helping to do the same.
This comes less than a year after a team of archaeologists unearthed a mass grave that they say could be connected to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Known, to some, as one of the worst racial terror in American history.
“Black folks have suffered a lot,” said Yvette Lewis.
Lewis is the president of the Hillsborough County chapter of the NAACP. She is also one of the people leading the charge to uncover all of the black cemeteries in Tampa.
“We’re discovering our history,” she said. “This is history that has been erased or forgotten about.”
So far, They’ve found five cemeteries, according to Lewis. They’ve also discovered cemeteries under schools in Clearwater, and in several other cities across the state. It’s not just happening in Florida.
“The souls of the graves are speaking,” said Lewis.
She was happy to hear about the discovery at the historic Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa. According to the city’s press release, they have discovered “27 burials so far.”
This comes just a week after the 100th anniversary of the race massacre. According to historians, 100-300 people died. Most of them were black.
“The ones that we have uncovered up until this point are all within coffins,” said a city spokesperson.
This discovery proves some were buried. Sadly it also proves, their graves were too.
“There were so many people who just weren’t nice to African American people,” said Lewis.
Cardno’s Archeologist, Ryan Allison, is the project manager. He said the goal is to learn more about the graves, the coffins and the remains.
“The work that we do is based on the outcome that’s desired,” Allison said. “For example, in a situation like this it’s much different than when we’re trying to identify a cemetery that’s no longer present. A lot of times, like now, we excavate to verify that they’re still there and preserve them in place if that’s what the community wants us to do.”
Allison said the project will take about 6 to 8 weeks to complete.