They discovered the body in October while they were excavating the Black section of the Oaklawn cemetery, searching for mass graves left over from the 1921 white supremacist mob attack, which killed roughly 300 people.
“Right now,” Kristi Williams, a member of the Tulsa Mass Graves Public Oversight Committee, told The Washington Post, “the priority is to find out who these remains belong to and why were they there undocumented.”
In May of 1921, a Black teenager was accused of assaulting a white girl, and a white mob descended on the Greenwood section of the city, a wealthy Black enclave known as “Black Wall Street.”
As many as 300 people may have been killed, and 35 square blocks of homes, businesses, churches, and other community institutions were destroyed.
Survivors reported seeing bodies dumped in mass graves, carried away on trucks, and tossed into a nearby river.
No white person was ever arrested for the massacre, and many white people in the community sought to bury the history of what happened, leaving the incident out of textbooks and removing historical materials from local libraries.
In 2018, the city resumed its investigations into the incident.
“The destruction of Black Wall Street and the coverup after it have lasting effects until this day,” Tulsa mayor GT Bynum said at the time. “We can’t go back in time to change that. But what we can do is to do right by them in 2021.”
Joe Biden visited Tulsa this month to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the violence.
“As painful as it is, only in remembrance do wounds heal,” the president said in his remarks, arguing for a national recognition of the country’s history of racist violence.
The US must “come to terms with its dark side” as other great nations do, he said.
“We just have to choose to remember,” he said. “Memorialise what happened here in Tulsa so it can’t be erased.”