ground penetrating radar detects possible lost graves in florida
A private archaeology firm believes it discovered 44 African American graves left behind when a cemetery in Florida was moved more than 60 years ago.
Ground-penetrating radar has been used to detect ‘grave anomalies’ under the disused asphalt area owned by the Clearwater and Pinellas County School District.
The original graveyard was demolished in 1954 the officials said, but some remains were intact. It is referred to as the North Greenwood Cemetery because its historical name, as is the age of its graves, remains unknown.
The graves were said to be between two and six feet below the surface in the report from Cardno, the company hired by the school district. The forgotten Afro-American cemetery was discovered in Tampa Bay for the third time since August.
The local NAACP branch president, Zebbie Atkinson, told The Tampa Bay Times: ‘It is a pity that America has a history it has and has done very little to amend past atrocities. ‘We must work together to find the answer, so that all hearts are ultimately satisfied.’
Newspapers from 1954 reported that the remains of 350 were to be moved from the cemetery to Parklawn Memorial Cemetery in Dunedin to make way for a swimming pool and Pinellas High School.
The swimming pool was demolished a long time ago and the school buildings are no longer used. The archaeology firm said there were ‘numerous disturbances that may indicate areas where burials have been removed.’
Cardno also reported additional graves may exist under a nearby school district building. Officials say Cardno will get permission to validate the radar’s findings by digging just close enough to the graves to confirm their existence without touching them.
Additional findings are expected by the end of March. After that, community meetings will be held to discuss what to do.
There had been plans to lease the land to the non-profit Homeless Empowerment Program to build affordable housing.
Associate superintendent for Pinellas schools Clint Herbic said he still hoped the project could go ahead with some ‘tweaking.’
In August last year, the Tampa Housing Authority reported 300 caskets from a segregation-era all-black cemetery were under some of its apartment buildings.
And in November, Hillsborough County School District uncovered some 250 caskets from a mid-20th century African American cemetery under King High School campus.
In December, 40 slave graves were discovered at a high-end country club in Tallahassee which sparked a debate about how to memorialize the dead.
Rumors had swirled for decades about a dark history which had long lain buried under the club’s grassy knolls and manicured lawns until archaeologist combed the area with penetrating radars and sniffer dogs.
Over the years, neat rows of rectangular depressions along the 7th fairway deepened in the grass, outlining what would be confirmed this month as sunken graves of the slaves who lived and died on a plantation that once sprawled with cotton near the Florida Capitol.
‘When I stand here on a cemetery for slaves, it makes me thoughtful and pensive,’ Delaitre Hollinger, president of the NAACP branch for Tallahassee said at the time. His ancestors worked the fields of Leon County as slaves. ‘They deserve much better than this,’ said Hollinger. ‘And they deserved much better than what occurred in that era.’
Meanwhile searches are ongoing for further African American graves in the state including from the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery in Clearwater, the Port Tampa Cemetery on MacDill Air Force Base and the Keystone Park Memorial Cemetery in Odessa.