Forensic Scientists to Use DNA Sequencing on 2 Possible Tulsa Race Massacre Victims

Forensic Scientists to Use DNA Sequencing on 2 Possible Tulsa Race Massacre Victims

Intermountain Forensics, a non-profit DNA testing laboratory located in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been tasked with identifying victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre whose remains were removed from Oaklawn Cemetery.

According to Laboratory Director Danny Hellwig, the investigators at Intermountain Forensics discovered adequate and usable DNA for testing on two of 14 sets of remains, the Associated Press reported.

“We have two (sets) that we’re very excited about,” Hellwig said. “It doesn’t guarantee us a result, but it gives us hope” for learning and documenting the names.

The forensic scientist is encouraging descendants of those individuals to provide DNA to the Intermountain Forensics’ DNA database so a match can be made following completion of DNA sequencing. A match could be made within days.

“We will absolutely, unequivocally need help from the Tulsa community to be successful,” said Hellwig, according to Lab Manager.

“But, make no mistake, we will not stop and will take every moment we need to get a positive result.”

With these efforts, the forensic team will use next-generation sequencing in a variety of different applications on these samples, including genetic genealogy. This process is slated to begin in July or August, Hellwig said.

The AP reported that none of the remains are confirmed as victims of the 1921 massacre, which occurred when a white mob attacked residents, homes, and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Amid forensic investigation, civil rights attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons filed a lawsuit in 2020 on behalf of family members who are descendants of and survivors of one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported. The suit seeking reparations was ruled to proceed by Tulsa County District Court Judge Caroline Wall.

A commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, dubbed the Black Wall Street Legacy Festival, was led by survivors and descendants between May 27 and May 28, 2022.