The future of Tampa’s Memorial Park Cemetery, where more than 6,000 people were buried, is up in the air with the recent death of its owner.
Here is a list of other historic African-American cemeteries in the Tampa Bay area and some of the challenges they face. The list was provided by Rebecca O’Sullivan of the Florida Public Archaeology Network at the University of South Florida.
Adams and Rogers Cemetery, 4200 3rd Ave. NW, Bradenton
A historic marker says the four-acre burial ground was established in 1896.
“This cemetery is at risk due to vandalism and the destruction of grave markers,” O’Sullivan said.
Lincoln Cemetery, 600 58th Street S., St. Petersburg
News archives say the nine-acre cemetery has 7,000 known graves. Veterans as far back as the U.S. Civil War are buried there here.
“This cemetery is being better maintained,” O’Sullivan said. “But it needs a lot of assistance with broken vaults and repair of monuments.”
Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Ehren Cemetery Road, Land O Lakes.
A historic marker says the cemetery dates to the mid-1800s.
“This one is very overgrown,” O’Sullivan said, “and many markers have been broken or removed in the past."
Rose Cemetery, 124 N Jasmine Ave., Tarpon Springs
Established in the early 1900s, this is the oldest African-American cemetery in Pinellas County, according to a historic marker. Those buried across its five acres include Civil War veterans and founders of local churches.
Over the years, the sign says, records and grave markers have been lost.
Last year, Rose Cemetery earned a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“It is in pretty good shape now,” O’Sullivan said. “It is well-managed and maintained.”
Spring Hill African-American Cemetery, 8580 Fort Dade Ave., Brooksville
Established in the mid-1800s, the cemetery contains several graves of lynching victims, according to news archives.
O’Sullivan said the cemetery’s biggest threat is a nearby mining operation that could disturb the graves.
Whispering Souls African-American Cemetery, 2698 South Dr., Clearwater
It has 20 visible head stones but at least 130 people are buried there, with the first interment in 1896 and the last one in 1973, according to news archives.
“This cemetery is in legal limbo due to unclear ownership,” O’Sullivan said.
In 1953, St. Paul Home Helping Hand Society of Safety Harbor sold the cemetery for $1 to the vaguely identified “Safety Harbor Colored Community.” The non-profit Whispering Souls African American Cemetery Inc. is trying to obtain the deed.