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USF launches website to serve as a national hub for erased Black cemeteries

The Tampa Bay Times found mentions of a dozen examples of such cemeteries outside of Tampa Bay.
Cardno Archaeologist KC Allen uses a trowel as she explores a possible grave shaft at the erased Zion Cemetery in Tampa.
Cardno Archaeologist KC Allen uses a trowel as she explores a possible grave shaft at the erased Zion Cemetery in Tampa. [ Times (2020) ]
Published Jun. 16
Updated Jun. 16

TAMPA — Graves from five erased Black or mostly Black cemeteries have been discovered throughout Tampa Bay in recent years, but the issue is not unique to this area.

Such burial grounds have been found throughout the nation.

So, a team of University of South Florida professors and doctoral students created the Black Cemetery Network website at blackcemeterynetwork.org to serve as a hub for the movement to bring dignity to those cemeteries.

“We built this network so that we can have conversations with groups across the country,” said Antoinette Jackson, the USF professor of anthropology who founded the network. “Together, we can work toward national advocacy that can protect these sites.”

The website allows registered participants to add erased or endangered Black cemeteries to a national map.

It also links to research and educational projects focused on Black cemeteries.

Related: 1,200 graves are missing in Tampa. How did they disappear?

Through an online search, the Tampa Bay Times found mentions of a dozen examples outside of Tampa Bay where headstones but not bodies were removed from Black cemeteries in the years before the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

“If these sacred sites weren’t paved over, many went into disrepair as they didn’t receive the same dedicated resources as other burial grounds or were forgotten as cities grew around them and local communities were displaced,” the network’s press release says.

In 2018, the skeletal remains from 95 Black burials were discovered at a school construction site in Fort Bend County, Texas, and 14 years ago, nearly 400 Black burials were uncovered during construction at Hunter Army Airfield outside Savannah, Georgia.

Currently, a team of Tampa archaeologists are in Oklahoma to help with the search for a mass grave believed to be linked to the 1921 Tulsa race massacre that resulted in the murder of up to 300 Black residents.

“These cemeteries contain stories about people, place, and families which are often missing from the larger public narrative,” the press release says. It “connects people and communities to black cemeteries and forgotten histories and creates a living archive that facilitates research, advocacy, and collaboration.”