Black cemetery with 328 graves discovered under construction in Tampa Bay

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Photo: Octavio Jones/ (Getty Images)

Last week, archaeologists in Tampa Bay, Florida reported the discovery of 328 graves under the cemetery of St. Matthews Baptist Church. Graves which according to Tampa Bay weather were to be relocated nearly 70 years ago when the church agreed to sell the land to a group of developers. At the time, St. Matthews Baptist Church was battling a mountain of municipal fees imposed on the segregation-era cemetery. Church leaders found hope in a trio of businessmen who agreed to take on the debt in exchange for the land.

Today, human resources consulting firm FrankCrum sits atop this land that was sold in 1955 along with the neighboring strip of Missouri Avenue. Archaeological society Stantec originally announced the discovery of 70 graves at the site in 2020 through the use of ground-penetrating radar equipment. And between April and May of this year, Stantec returned to continue the investigation which led to the discovery of 258 more.

According to local reports, there will likely be more. Historical data shows that at least 533 people were buried there. The report also shows that there were at least 21 areas of interest where the date came back inconclusive.

Other graves are likely to be found under a section of the FrankCrum building that could not be inspected, “although the overlap is probably only sufficient for two rows of north-south graves”, Stantec’s report states. .

Graves detected on the FrankCrum property are under a paved parking lot and entrance courtyard.

“The community was informed at the time that the bodies would be moved,” said Zebbie Atkinson IV, president of the Clearwater/Upper Pinellas NAACP. “It looks like the community has been lied to.”

This is of course not the first time such an incident has occurred. In 2019, USA today also reported on a Tampa high school built on top of another black cemetery where 145 graves were found using the same technology.


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