A Florida newspaper’s special report led to more than 120 coffins discovered in what’s believed to be the first burial ground for Black people in Tampa.
The lost Zion Cemetary was reportedly established in 1901 at the 3700 block of Florida Avenue.
But in the years following, the burial grounds were forgotten until a Tampa Bay Times special report revealed the names of nearly 400 people buried at the cemetery on June 23.
The Housing Authority commissioned a survey in response to the report and found images of 126 caskets with ground-penetrating radar Friday, and the Housing Authority still has more land to survey, the newspaper reported.
Byron Pressley, pastor at First Mount Carmel AME Church, prayed over the land Friday.
“I ask God that he bless the families who have lost loved ones over here, who are buried right here today,” Pressley said, “and that he whispers words of encouragement to them.”
“They are probably still watching over us,” Pressley added.
Zion, which was founded by the wealthy Black businessman Richard Doby, has ties to New St. Paul AME and First Mount Carmel AME, the Times reported.
Doby sold the cemetery in 1907 to a Black-owned casket company, and records the Times obtained show Mount Carmel Church came to oversee the burial grounds over time.
But by the 1920s, the newspaper reported that white businessmen owned the land, which was parceled out for development.
“We’re still finding hidden graves of black people in segregated burial grounds, and folks want us to ‘move past race,'” Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith tweeted. “This time, it’s in Tampa.
“They weren’t good enough to bury next to white folks, but white folks saw fit to put a building on top of them.”