Residents at a Tampa public housing community are being forced to move after a shocking discovery.
It turns out, they were living on top of a long-lost African American cemetery, once known as Zion Memorial Cemetery, Tampa’s first black cemetery.
The 2½-acre, segregation-era burial ground, believed to be the city’s first cemetery for African-Americans, was established in 1901 along the 3700 block of Florida Ave. and extended back around 400 feet.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the cemetery disappeared when the land was parceled off for white developments.
Robles Park Village was built in 1951. At the time that the public housing complex was built, it was only open to white people. In case you did not know it, project housing communities, better known as “low-income housing communities, were initially built to house poor white families.
Builders discovered at least ten burial remains at the time of construction. It is not a far stretch to conclude, that those in charge of the project were aware that the area was the site of an African American cemetery, and just did not care due to their own financial and racial motivations. Speculation, of course.
Ground-penetrating radar has detected 126 coffins on the site of the public housing community. The Times discovered death certificates for 382 people who were buried in Zion. A cemetery historian who conducted followup research said he found 747.