44 African American Graves Have Been Discovered Under What Is Now A Parking Lot In A Florida City
Atop the graves now sits a parking lot and a vacant school building.
March 02, 2020 at 3:51 pm
A ground-penetrating radar was used to discover 44 graves from an African American cemetery under what is now a parking lot in Clearwater, Florida.
A private archaeology firm, Cardno, was hired by the city of Clearwater and the Pinellas County School Board to conduct the search of “grave-like anomalies,” reports the Tampa Bay Times.
The parking lot is now owned by the school district. The official name of the cemetery is unknown, but city and school officials are referring to it as “North Greenwood Cemetery.” The original cemetery was moved in 1954, but some graves were left behind, reports Time.
Clearwater city manager Bill Horne said they will give Cardno permission to confirm their existence by digging just close enough not to interfere with the graves, without disturbing them.
“The report highlighted the need for continued investigation,” said Horne during a news conference.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that America has the history it has and has done very little if anything to make amends for the atrocities of the past,” said Zebbie Atkinson IV, president of the NAACP Clearwater/Upper Pinellas branch. “We need to work together to find the answer so all hearts are satisfied in the end.”
BREAKING: Surveyors found 44 graves on the property. Here’s the letter from the surveyor. “Also present are numerous disturbances that may indicate areas where burials have been removed.” @TB_Times
— Kathryn Varn (@kathrynvarn) February 28, 2020
They won’t have to dig far. The graves are estimated to be just about 2.45 to 5.62 feet below the surface. They also suspect additional graves may exist under the site of a nearby school district building, which was once used as a cemetery.
The final report is expected to be completed by the end of March. Officials will begin speaking to the community about how to proceed, likely consulting residents.
“Now that we’re here we’re here, and it’s how do we best move forward in a manner that serves all parties involved and the community?” said Atkinson.
The city, the school district and the Homeless Empowerment Program had announced in July that the property would be used to build as many as 39 affordable housing units. A 1.3-acre lot donated by the city to the school district was to be included in the property leased to the nonprofit. The school district, in return, would run the nonprofit’s adult education program.
Associate superintendent for Pinellas schools, Clint Herbic, said they are working to keep the housing project in motion.
“This doesn’t mean that that project has to come to an end,” he said. “Maybe we just kind of take a look at our property … and tweak those plans a little bit.”
In order to make room for a city pool and Pinellas High School, the remains of about 350 people were moved from North Greenwood Cemetery to Parklawn Memorial Cemetery in Dunedin, newspapers reported in 1954. The pool is no longer there, and the school building is vacant and fenced off.
The archaeology report says there are “numerous disturbances that may indicate areas where burials have been removed.”
This is the third discovery in a string of lost gravesites found.
Last August, the Tampa Housing Authority announced that 300 graves from the segregation-era all-Black Zion Cemetery were uncovered under what is now five Robles Park Village public housing apartment buildings, privately owned warehouses and a tow lot.
In November, the Hillsborough County School District found that its King High School campus was home to about 145 caskets from the mid-20th century Ridgewood Cemetery, which was a gravesite for paupers.
Archaeologists believe that most of the 800 caskets from Zion, and the estimated 250 from Ridgewood, remain in the ground.