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  • Nia Clark

Ep. 13: Where Are The Bodies Buried?

Updated: Jul 15


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A significant number of African American residents of Tulsa’s predominantly black Greenwood District disappeared during and after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Some researchers and experts believe that number could be in the hundreds. These were people who, not only had never been heard from again, but whose bodies were never found following the Massacre. Presuming many of the missing people died as a result of the attack on Greenwood (as a good number of black Tulsans concluded), the location of their remains have become the focus of collaborative efforts to locate them. The answer could lie in survivor accounts and family lore - that for nearly 100 years - told of large numbers of bodies being buried in mass graves in and around Tulsa following the Massacre. On the other hand, some witnesses reported seeing black corpses hauled to the banks of and dumped in the Arkansas River. Experts who were hired to unearth evidence of - if not the graves themselves more than 20 years ago - encountered road blocks that made their efforts unsuccessful. However, the current mayor of Tulsay, Mayor G.T. Bynum, has launched renewed efforts to discover possible mass graves stemming from the attack on Greenwood.


Guests in this episode include Kavin Ross of the Greenwood Tribune, who is also the son of former Oklahoma State Representative Don Ross; Dr. Scott Ellsworth who is a writer, historian and University of Michigan Afroamerican and African Studies professor; and Dr. Alicia Odewale who is a University of Tulsa Anthropology associate professor. Listeners will also hear from Representative Ross as well as Tulsa Race Massacre survivor and long-time educator William Danforth Williams, also known as W.D. Williams.


Kavin Ross, Greenwood Tribune, Black Wall Street Times videographer, journalist and son of former Ok State Rep. Don Ross.


Dr. Scott Ellsworth, writer, historian and University of Michigan Afroamerican and African Studies professor.

Dr. Alicia Odewale, University of Tulsa Anthropology associate professor.


Black folks did not know what they did with the bodies because they were in internment camps, or hiding in different white folks homes, or fled the city. We did hear early reports, there were a number of mass graves inside the city and outside the city as well. We did hear early reports that bodies were thrown in the Arkansas River." ~Kavin Ross

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Resources: 1. https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=TU013 2. https://www.tulsahistory.org/exhibit/1921-tulsa-race-massacre/ 3. https://www.tulsa2021.org/


Musical Attributions

1. Glueworm Evening Blues (ID 994) by Lobo Loco License, disclaimer and copyrite information. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode Linked to music: https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lobo_Loco/Welcome/Glueworm_Blues_ID_994 2. Title: Driving to the Delta (ID 923) by Lobo Loco License, disclaimer and copywite information: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lobo_Loco/Welcome/Driving_to_the_Delta_ID_923_1563 Link to music: https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lobo_Loco/Welcome/Driving_to_the_Delta_ID_923_1563 3. Spirit Inside (ID 819) by Lobo Loco License, disclaimer and copyright information: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/0) Link to music: https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Lobo_Loco/Tree_of_Meditation/Spirit_Inside_ID_819 4. African Moon by John Bartmann Link to license, disclaimer and copyright information: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ Link to Music: https://freemusicarchive.org/music/John_Bartmann/Public_Domain_Soundtrack_Music_Album_One/african-moon


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