100 years later, FGCU students and professor help bring justice to Tulsa massacre victims

Reporter: Nicole Gabe Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
An FGCU professor and her students are helping to excavate a mass grave where victims of the Tulsa Massacre were buried 100 years ago. (CREDIT: Tulsa Historical Society & Museum)

It’s been 100 years since a white mob laid waste to the Greenwood District, home to the wealthiest Black community in the U.S. at the time.

Greenwood, Black Wallstreet as it was known, was leveled between May 31 and June 1 of 1921, 35 square blocks destroyed by a mob of people, many of them deputized and handed weapons by city leaders.

Black neighbors were killed and their businesses destroyed in the Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood.

Hundreds of bodies remain unidentified.

FGCU master’s students and their professor are in Tulsa to help excavate the remains of those killed and dumped in a mass grave in hopes of identifying them and telling their stories.

The FGCU graduate students will stay in Tulsa for the next two to three weeks. Another master’s student will spend the month of July in Tulsa.

“The scale of this tragedy is stunning,” said FGCU Professor Heather Walsh-Haney, leader of the forensic studies program.

Walsh-Haney has been to Tulsa before to help preserve victims’ remains.

“The whole purpose of this is to, you know, correct the history of the United States, to document one of the worst race massacres, on record, and to right our wrong, and that’s what we’re doing,” Walsh-Haney said.

Walsh-Haney and her students are in Tulsa to prepare the site for more detailed excavations.

Cahjanae Henfield and Leslie Urgelles, both students, are both traveling to Tulsa too.

They both say it’s an honor, but also emotional, to help.

“Kind of upsetting that it took like 100 years, but I’m glad it’s finally something’s happening,” Henfield said. “Before this even started, this massacre was actually new to me. I haven’t been taught anything about it. So I started reading and learning all the history.”

Urgelles said she feels like it’s important work that needs to be done.

“And it’s going to keep getting done until we get justice for these victims and their families,” she said.


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