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Emmett Till Cold Case Investigations and Prosecution Program

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,075,000)

The City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Police Department request funding to pursue forensic genetic genealogy identifications for potential 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre (TRM) victims exhumed in the 2022 search of Tulsa Oaklawn Cemetery. The Tulsa Police seek to contribute to the reconciliation of this epic cold case by supporting the identification of the victims, as the prosecution of perpetrators is not an option for this investigation. This effort will be an observable step in reunifying the City administration with the affected Tulsa public, the Greenwood community, and other Tulsa stakeholders harmed by the events of the TRM. The lasting impacts will be law enforcement and community genetic genealogy training, possession of a distributable training program, and the creation of possible TRM victim genetic genealogy profile identities. Newspaper and death certificate records from 1921 indicate that at least twenty-one African American male victims were buried in the Oaklawn Cemetery Colored Potter’s Field (Section 20), but the burial records for non-veteran burials in Section 20 have been lost or discarded. The exact number of deaths and burials related to the TRM is unknown, due to the suppression of funeral services by the Oklahoma City National Guard in the days immediately after the event.

This plan, a collaboration of the Tulsa PD with TRM Physical Investigation Committee analysts, Intermountain Forensics genetic genealogy collaborator, and future community stakeholder(s), is to conduct forensic genetic genealogy analysis for the potential TRM victims exhumed in the 2022 search season. The program incorporates genetic genealogy training workshops for law enforcement and community members, that promote skills for genetic genealogy data gathering for either community, promotes outreach, education, and recruitment to the genetic genealogy process, and disseminates outcomes of the ongoing genetic genealogy analysis for the suspected TRM victims. In addition to producing genetic genealogy profile identities for those exhumed in the investigation, this program will produce a transferable workshop curriculum with an associated assessment survey tool, that can assist other communities with utilizing forensic genetic genealogy for cold case investigations.

Date Created: September 30, 2022