A white mob rampaged through a wealthy black business district in Tulsa, Okla., in 1921, in a spate of violence that destroyed more than 1,200 homes and left up to 300 people dead.

Now, the city’s mayor has renewed efforts to locate possible mass grave sites where victims may have been buried, seeking to further unravel the history of the mob attack and provide closure for victims and their families.

“It’s one of the defining events for our city,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday. “We as a city continue to grapple with not just the event itself, but also racial reconciliation in the aftermath of it. We can’t hope to reconcile as a city if we’re not committed to doing everything we need to do to fully understand what happened in 1921.”

The mob attack in Tulsa has been called one of the worst instances of racial violence in U.S. history, yet for decades, memories of the vicious event were suppressed.

While there has been a slow public acknowledgment by city and state officials in recent years, spurred by a state commission’s detailed, 200-page report in 2001, questions about exactly what happened to the bodies of the victims have remained unanswered.

Witness statements helped identify three locations that would have been likely grave sites, the report said. And radar investigation in the late 1990s appeared to suggest the existence of mass graves.

Bynum said the city would look at all three sites and use more advanced radar technology than what was available 20 years ago. He said if the investigation turned up anything, the city would follow with a “minimally invasive” excavation.

New York Times