Who Died in the Tulsa Race Massacre?

Jeanette Batchelor-Young had been tracing her roots for years when she received a message that would change what she knew about her origin story. There were still so many blanks in her family history: Mrs. Batchelor-Young had lived with her father briefly until his death and then she was adopted. She knew the name of his mother and grandmother, but not much more.

The message came from a forensic lab, and it revealed a twist to Mrs. Batchelor-Young’s understanding of her paternal family’s journey from a tiny farming community in Texas to Northern California. Turns out there has been a stop — possibly, a very consequential stop — in Tulsa, Okla., in the 1920s.

Mrs. Batchelor-Young, 64, learned she might be a relative of one of the victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. Her DNA matched that of remains exhumed from a local cemetery as part of the city’s effort to identify the victims of the massacre through living relatives.

“I have had so many questions about my family on my father’s side,” Mrs. Batchelor-Young said. “I wanted to know more about who and where I come from.”

The massacre, among the most horrific racial attacks in American history, left Tulsa’s Greenwood district, a Black neighborhood, in smoldering ruins. The death toll is estimated between 36 and 300. Many survivors scattered to parts unknown, taking with them clues about who lived and died in the neighborhood.

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