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Report: Lost Black cemetery may have been discovered on MacDill Air Force Base

Posted at 11:29 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 23:29:07-05

TAMPA, Fla. — A new report suggests that a lost Black cemetery may have been discovered on the MacDill Air Force Base.

According to a report, it says the ground-penetrating radar found "anomalies" that could be burials in the area where the Port of Tampa Cemetery used to be. Those anomalies were found in one of the five areas searched.

A review of the city's archives did not turn up records of a Port Tampa Cemetery. It is believed it may have been an informal burial ground, the report said.

Earlier this year, archaeologists went out with the radar and cadaver-sniffing dogs to search in five different areas of interest.

The report says records indicate at least 38 people, including 13 still-born infants, may be buried there. The majority of those people were African-American. Records also include death certificates and obituaries.

The Port of Tampa Cemetery is one of several lost Black burial grounds within the city.

The President of the Hillsborough Branch of NAACP Yvette Lewis says her focus is on getting a memorial set up so this part of the city's history is remembered.

"Every time they find one [cemetery], you get this feeling of beat down," Lewis said. "It hurts to know that my ancestors, people were treated this way because of the color of their skin."

Colonel Benjamin Jonsson, Commander of the 6th Air Refueling Wing, released a statement:

“We continue to work side by side with the NAACP and community stakeholders to ensure we honor this area appropriately. We plan to memorialize the site as well as create a space in front of our visitors center to honor those buried at Port Tampa Cemetery and allow the community to pay respects now and into the future. We are currently working with the community to finalize these plans as well as set a date for a ceremony.”

ABC Action News has reached out to the archaeological company behind the report, but have yet to hear back.