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Zion Cemetery: The Forgotten

Nearly 400 people buried in Tampa are missing. What happened to Zion Cemetery, where Tampa's African-American community buried its dead in the early 1900s?

  1. Patrick Thorpe, who owns part of Marti/Colon Cemetery in West Tampa, wants to start a nonprofit group to cover the costs of burial grounds that are falling into disrepair. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Architect Patrick Thorpe is working to keep old Tampa cemeteries from falling further into disrepair.
  2. Ronald Sheehy of St. Petersburg knew about his uncle, Samuel Oscar Sheehy, a well known "fixer" in Tampa's minority communities of the early 1900s. But he didn't know his uncle had a son who died at 18 months and was buried in the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    Some of Tampa’s most prominent African-American families buried their dead at Zion. Still, apartments and businesses were built on top of them.
  3. The Kennedy family plot is among the most elaborate at historic Oaklawn Cemetery in downtown Tampa. Henry P. Kennedy, who is buried at the site, was the last recorded owner of Zion Cemetery, a segregation-era burial ground for African-Americans that disappeared from view. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The discovery of caskets under a public housing project raises questions about how it happened: ‘They did something wrong and need be charged publicly.’
  4. This image is a 3D laser scan of Robles Park Village showing grave-shaped objects beneath the ground in relation to buildings at the public housing complex. The single image is made from two data sources and aligns with historical maps of the former Zion Cemetery. Cardno
    Leaving bodies in place at the forgotten Africa-American burial ground may not be a decision for the Housing Authority to make, Cruz said.
  5. Pastor Byron Pressley of First Mt. Carmel AME Church says prayers Friday afternoon for the people buried and forgotten at Zion Cemetery, now the site of Tampa's Robles Park Village apartment complex. A ground-penetrating radar survey has revealed 126 caskets there with more of the cemetery property still to be studied. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    To Pastor Pressley, those who are long forgotten remain his parishioners. “They are probably still watching over us."
  6. This image is a 3D laser scan of Robles Park Village showing grave-shaped objects beneath the ground in relation to buildings at the public housing complex. The single image is made from two data sources and aligns with historical maps of the former Zion Cemetery. Cardno
    The news brings residents of Robles Park Village to tears. The place where they live was built on the site of long-forgotten Zion Cemetery.
  7. This image is a 3D laser scan of Robles Park Village showing subsurface results in relation to the buildings.  The red and/or blue rectangles represent buried objects in the shape of graves superimposed on the 3D imagery.  These results are from two different data sources and they align with historical maps of the former Zion Cemetery. Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Cardno
    The Tampa Housing Authority set the right example this week.
  8. Robles Park resident Clark Simmons listens to a presentation by archaeologists during an informational meeting at Robles Park Village community center.  The Tampa Housing Authority held the meeting to discuss Zion Cemetery. "JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    After talks with the tenant council and federal housing officials, and as the search for bodies continues, the agency has decided not to wait.
  9. Barbara Feliciano, 75, remembers the discovery of human remains in 1953 on the site of the former Zion Cemetery.  Feliciano was 8 at the time and lived nearby in the Robles Park Village public housing complex. "JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Researchers are trying to learn what happened to the cemetery where as many as 800 African-Americans were buried in the early 1900s.
  10. Tenant representative Reva Iman said people living at Robles Park Village are eager to move out no matter what the reason. Relocation may come sooner rather than later as archaeologists scan the property to see whether bodies were left behind in the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times] JAMES BORCHUCK   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Part of the public housing project sits atop the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. Finding one body would trigger the move.
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