Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 22:36:42 -0800 (PST)
From: Art McGee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Mass graves hold the secrets of American race massacre
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ under "International News"
Mass graves hold the secrets of American race massacre
James Langton, Electronic Telegraph, Issue 1403, Monday 29 March 1999
New York - INVESTIGATORS are searching for the graves of up to 400 black Americans in an attempt to end the 78-year cover-up of one of the worst acts of mass slaughter in the country's history. Dr Clyde Snow, the world's leading authority in forensic anthropology, is preparing to spend the coming months in his home state of Oklahoma, identifying the remains of hundreds of men, women and children believed buried in communal graves. The dead are the long-missing casualties of the Tulsa race riot in 1921, a little-known chapter in American history which, if substantiated, would eclipse even the 1995 Oklahoma bombing as the country's worst civilian atrocity.
Using accounts from newly discovered witnesses and sophisticated ground-penetrating radar, a team of historians and scientists believes that the death toll from the massacre could have been as high as 400.
Dr Snow, 71, has uncovered the bones of Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz "Angel of Death", in Brazil and the victims of atrocities in every continent from Argentina to Ethiopia and Bosnia. "I was used to seeing such things in Bosnia or Africa," he said. "But this is so close to home. It is important to remember these things can happen in your own backyard."
The Tulsa riot has been largely forgotten for more than seven decades, not least because of a campaign by the local authorities to cover up the full extent of the killing in its immediate aftermath.
Dozens of official documents are missing, believed destroyed in the cover-up. Most controversially, a headline and editorial from the Tulsa Tribune that called for whites to "lynch a negro tonight", which is widely believed to have sparked the slaughter, have been removed from every surviving archive edition. A reward is now being offered for a copy of the original newspaper.
New evidence uncovered in the past months backs long-held views among black survivors of the riot that the number of victims was far higher than the official report of between 36 and 100. One 88-year-old man, Clyde Eddy, has come forward to say that he saw boxes of dead blacks being buried secretly in crates in unmarked graves at a city cemetery. Four other possible sites of mass graves are also to be investigated.
The violence followed the arrest of Dick Rowland, a black shoeshine boy on May 31, 1921. Newspaper reports wrongly claimed that he had sexually assaulted a 17-year-old white girl in the lift of the office block where they both worked. Later, gangs of blacks and whites clashed outside the county courthouse where he was being held. In the violence that followed, gangs of heavily-armed whites poured in to town. More than 30 city blocks were levelled, many of them in a thriving commercial district known as "Black Wall Street". Some 10,000 blacks were left homeless and more than 1,000 houses burnt to the ground. Order was re-established only a day later when National Guardsmen entered Tulsa, detaining at least 4,000 blacks in impromptu prison camps.
An official commission of inquiry was first proposed after the 75th anniversary of the rioting in 1996. The 11-man panel of experts voted earlier this month to establish a "historical record" of the riot and to expand the search for bodies. The prime mover of the investigation, a black Oklahoma senator, Don Ross, says there has been "a conspiracy of silence for 75 years. Some people have worked very hard to keep this hidden".
Despite the passage of time, investigators believe they have found at least 40 witnesses to the violence, the eldest of whom was a 16-year-old girl at the time. One eyewitness report speaks of piles of bodies stacked in lorries "like firewood". The search for human remains will concentrate on five possible sites for mass graves, including land near the Arkansas river and what is now a local park. Most of the dead were buried without ceremony - partly because they constituted a serious health hazard in the early summer heat. y Dick Warner, a commission investigator, says: "We are not trying to set any blame, just to find out what really happened." If the remains of a large number of women and children are found, says Dr Snow, then "what we have here is a form of ethnic cleansing".
Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 1999.
[Also take a look at these links:
Lastly, go to this page: http://search.tulsaworld.com/archivesearch/ and do a search for "tulsa riot 1921"]
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