CLEARWATER — In 1954, the city of Clearwater was assured that more than 300 graves moved from the Black cemetery on the corner of Holt Avenue and Engman Street accounted for all the burials.
More than 60 years later, archaeologists discovered that at least 55 graves were left behind when that land was cleared to make way for a city pool and school.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, a historic marker will be unveiled on that corner as a reminder that the currently unused Pinellas County School District land should still be considered a cemetery despite the absence of headstones.
“This site continues to be a cemetery and reflects the social history of the African American community with burial customs that can be traced back to the time of enslavement,” the marker says. “Loved ones left items on graves like coins, glass vases for flowers, and conch shells, as gestures of custom and remembrance. These objects, and the many graves where they were placed, remain here to this day located in areas on both sides of Holt Avenue.”
According to the marker, the 1½-acre burial ground was established in 1940 as the “Clearwater Colored Cemetery.” Today, it is referred to as the North Greenwood Cemetery.
All graves were supposed to be moved to Parklawn Memorial Cemetery in Dunedin.
“After much input from the community … it was discovered that only graves with markers were moved, leaving several unmarked and misplaced graves behind,” the marker says.
But archaeologists found some of the forgotten graves had markers. It’s unknown why those were left in the ground.
Archaeologists have confirmed that six sites throughout the region are home to erased or forgotten graves tied to pioneering Black communities. Another five sites have been identified as likely locations but have not yet been surveyed by archaeologists.
Each of the discoveries came after the Tampa Bay Times in 2019 detailed what happened to Tampa’s Zion Cemetery, among the largest of the forgotten cemeteries.