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Residents discuss what to do with Tampa's lost cemeteries

Posted at 5:00 PM, Dec 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-20 18:30:00-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Archeologists have uncovered cemeteries filled with mainly African American ancestors which were buried nearly 100 years ago.

Tampa King High School and Robles Park Apartment Complex are just two recent areas which used to be marked cemeteries years ago, containing more than 270 bodies.

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Now, community members want to know what will happen next.

“We should come together and honor the dead with dignity,” said Michelle B. Patty.

She says it’s not a black issue, but a community issue.


ABC Action News was at Tampa Tiger Bay Club on Friday as dozens showed up to discuss the future of the lost cemeteries.

Tampa Housing Authority told us the property, in which they own, will not be destroyed as of now.

However, they have started removing bodies with permission.

“How can you right something that took place in 1931?” said Lillian Strayer, with Tampa Housing Authority.

Resounding ideas for memorials, parks and a way to honor the dead filled the room.

“Do a real museum and talk about the history the African Americans had in building Tampa,” said Jarvis El-Amin, with the Hillsborough NAACP.

The Tampa Bay History Center, which focuses on preserving history, says this is a poor example of how modern Tampa has been remembering its ancestors.

“Their legacies should live on or at least not be desecrated,” Rodney Kite-Powell said.

Kite-Powell says he believes there’s at least 2-3 more cemeteries in the area which have been forgotten.

“I think it shows we need to be stewards of our history, better stewards of those that came before us,” he said.

While there are not concrete plans in how to move forward, most residents agreed on one thing — that city leaders need to pay more urgent attention to these matters and make change.

“Put up something meaningful for the community,” Michelle B. Patty said.