Tampa apartment complex was built atop segregation-era graveyard | TribLIVE.com

Tampa apartment complex was built atop segregation-era graveyard

Samson X Horne
Ground-penetrating radar has uncovered what is believed to be over 120 coffins under an apartment complex in Tampa, Florida. It is part of the lost Zion Cemetary, Tampa’s first segregated-era burial ground established in 1901.

Residents of Tampa’s Robles Park Village were brought to tears when they learned that their homes were built on the site of an all-black cemetery that from the segregation era.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that ground-penetrating radar has detected at least 120 coffins of the long-lost Zion Cemetery below the surface of the grounds of the complex.

A 2.5-acre burial ground, Zion is believed to be the city’s first cemetery for African-Americans. It dates back to 1901 until it disappeared around a century ago after it was “parceled off for white developments,” the paper reported.

Apparently no one attempted to look for it until recently.

“Those people are still there,” Clark Simmons, vice president of the tenant council told the Times through tears. “Jesus Christ.”

An archaeologist said the radar is showing reflections rectangular objects buried four to six feet below the surface. He said the rectangles are arranged east-west and are within the boundaries of the former cemetery.

The search was prompted after the Times published a special report about the forgotten cemetery in June, the paper reported. During a nine-month search, the Times put together the cemetery’s lost history but found no evidence of a mass reburial.

The archaeologists say there are likely more graves than the 126 they have discovered.

It was commonplace in the early 1900s for poor blacks to be buried in fabric shrouds.

Radar cannot detect century-old human remains if they weren’t buried in a coffin. Old bones would be too deteriorated to appear on the scan.

The radar also cannot see through the floors of the structures that have been built on the land.

Robles Park Village now has five apartment buildings on the property.

According to the Times, the Tampa Housing Authority unearthed three caskets during the construction of Robles Park Village but didn’t search for more. At the time, the housing was for whites only.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review digital producer. You can contact Samson at 412-320-7845, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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