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More Than 40 African-American Graves Found Underneath Florida Parking Lot: ‘It’s an Unfortunate Situation’

A private archaeological firm uncovered what’s believed to be yet another forgotten African-American burial ground in the Tampa Bay area, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Cardno, a multi-national engineering services company, has identified 44 “grave-like anomalies” underneath a paved lot belonging to a school district in Clearwater, Florida. With the help of ground-penetrating radar, scientists were able to locate the dozens of possible graves.

African-American Graves Found
More than 40 potential graves belonging to an African-American cemetery are believed to be underneath a paved parking lot in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo: CBS Miami / video screenshot)

City of Clearwater and Pinellas County School District officials announced the discovery last Friday but said there’s still need for continued investigation.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that America has the history it has and has done very little if anything to make amends for the atrocities of the past,” NAACP Clearwater President Zebbie Atkinson IV told reporters at a news conference, where he was joined by City Manager Bill Horne and Pinellas schools Superintendent Clint Herbic.

“We need to work together to find the answer so all hearts are satisfied in the end,” he added.

The possible graves are just 2.45 to 5.62 feet below the surface, and a report prepared by Cardnos suggests additional graves could exist under a school district building nearby. The land was once home to an African-American cemetery, however, the remains were relocated in 1954 to make room for a new high school and pool.

Archaeologists believe some of the graves may have been left behind.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, this latest discovery marks the third time since August that archaeologist have stumbled upon forgotten African-American graves in the Tampa Bay area. Last summer the Tampa Housing Authority confirmed that graves from the segregated, all-black Zion Cemetery were still under its original footprint that includes five of the agency’s public housing apartment buildings.

The second discovery came in November when the Hillsborough County School District discovered the mid-20th century Ridgewood Cemetery for paupers was located on its King High School campus.

All eyes are now on Clearwater, where the remains of some 350 people were moved from what’s now being called the North Greenwood Cemetery to make way for the now-unused school. Next steps involve Cardno getting the green light to validate the radar’s findings by digging close enough to the graves without actually touching them.

“Now that we’re here we’re here, and it’s how do we best move forward in a manner that serves all parties involved and the community?” Atkinson told the newspaper.

Cardno’s final report is expected to be finished by late March, after which community leaders will hold meetings to discuss how to proceed.

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