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. Vacant land within the Italian Club Cemetery may the site of the lost College Hill Cemetery, listed in some 100 obituaries from 1896 through the 1930s. Tampa Bay Times
    Cubans and African-Americans were once buried on land that appears to be a vacant corner of the Italian Club Cemetery.
  2. This photo of a wooden schoolhouse might be the only picture that exists from Robles Pond, an African-American community north of the city of Tampa when it was established in the 1880s. It was demolished in the 1950s to make way for the all-white Robles Park Village public housing complex. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
    Robles Pond was demolished to make way for whites-only housing projects.
  3. The Rev. Larry Roundtree of New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church says local churches can help in the search for lost cemeteries by searching their records. Roundtree attended a meeting of a committee formed to help deal with the discovery that a pauper's cemetery was located on land now occupied by King High School. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Three have been discovered in just the past year. City and county officials have been urged to get out in front of the challenge.
  4. Eunive Massey, 96, remembers workers digging up graves near a home where she lived on North Florida Avenue in the early 1930s. Ground penetrating radar may have confirmed her memories, but the caskets appear to remain behind at long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    A Tampa woman saw graves exhumed in the 1930s, but archaeologists just found caskets on the property. How can both be right?
  5. The graves of Caroline and Thomas Hicks are among nine found to have been moved out of the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery along North Florida Avenue. They were reburied in Memorial Park, believed to be the second African-American cemetery in Tampa. JAMES BORCHUCK
    The story of the pioneer Tampa family might help explain the disappearance of the place where some 800 African-Americans were buried.
  6. Seated before a map of Zion Cemetery, Leroy Moore of the Tampa Housing Authority, left, talks about moving families who live atop the burial ground. Also serving on a panel Tuesday at the Tampa Bay History Center are, left to right, Rebecca O'Sullivan of the Florida Public Archaeology Network and Tampa Bay Times staffers James Borchuck and Paul Guzzo. COURTESY OF THE TAMPA BAY HISTORY CENTER  |  Tampa Bay History Center
    At a panel discussion on the African-American burial ground, one leader laments: "People feel like spirits are eating with them.”
  7. Dennis Creech, left, owner of Sunstate Wrecker Services, and General Manager Tony Huffman say they would feel the loss of property once occupied by long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. But they wouldn't feel right continuing to use it now that they know. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    Research confirms that at least 742 people were buried on property that’s now home to warehouses and a public housing complex.
  8. 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] Cardno
    The Tuesday discussion features the Tampa Bay Times staffers whose reporting helped show that hundreds of bodies remain in the ground.
  9. This field and warehouse off Florida Avenue across the street from E. Kentucky Avenue is believed to be the site of the former Zion Cemetery which was established in 1901.  It is currently owned by restaurateur Richard Gonzmart.  During a nine-month investigation by the Times, no evidence was found that a mass reinterment occurred. [Times photo by Luis Santana]
    The restaurateur’s decision to hire archaeologists to examine his property for grave sites is appropriate and civic-minded.
  10. At a special service Saturday, members of the First Mt. Carmel AME Church place flowers near the pulpit to represent the hundreds of people buried at the long-forgotten Zion Cemetery. Providing words of comfort is the Rev. Jimmy Thompson. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    First Mt. Carmel AME sets up scholarship fund, city pledges legal help, lawmakers pursue money to turn the property into a memorial park.