The official death toll from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre stands at 36, but historians have long believed that around 300 black men, women, and children were killed when white rioters led by the Ku Klux Klan attacked and burned the city's Greenwood neighborhood. University of Oklahoma experts now believe they have found at least one mass grave holding victims of the violence, which erupted on May 31, 1921, after a black teenager was falsely accused of assaulting a white woman, NBC reports. Oklahoma Archeological Survey researcher Scott Hammerstedt said Monday that "anomalies" consistent with mass graves had been found at three locations in the city, including two in Oaklawn Cemetery, reports the Washington Post.
In one section of the cemetery, researchers found "what very much looks like a human-dug pit," Hammerstedt said. "This is very likely a candidate to be a mass burial." The city may now seek permits to excavate the sites, which were identified as possible mass graves in a 2001 report on the massacre. At a meeting Monday night, Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum, who opened the investigation last year, said the city would push for access to another site, a privately owned cemetery that has been reluctant to allow research, the Tulsa World reports. "We are actively pursuing the truth on this, wherever it leads us, in a transparent way," Bynum said. “The sad reality is that the better part of a century went by in which the people of Tulsa didn’t want to talk about this. People actively worked to cover it up … and very nearly succeeded." (Read more Tulsa stories.)