TAMPA, Fla. — The search for more graves from a forgotten African American cemetery in Tampa continued on Monday, with archaeologists and crews searching a 5,000 sq. ft. lot at Sunstate Wrecker Service off N. Florida Ave. in Tampa.
This comes after 144 graves from Zion Cemetery were detected underneath the Robles Park Village public housing development.
“I think I can speak for everybody in our company. We were amazed then appalled, then shocked. And just, you know, we're all wondering, ‘how could this happen?’” said Tony Huffman, general manager.
The segregation-era cemetery was first established in the early 1900s, but was eventually lost over time as property changed hands. In the 1950s, the Tampa Housing Authority continued with construction of Robles Park Village despite crews finding three caskets.
Leroy Moore, chief operating officer of the Tampa Housing Authority said his agency agreed to also scan the Sunstate Wrecker Service property for graves since it is also in the footprint of Zion Cemetery. Huffman said it was a welcome request.
“Well, for us, it's the right thing,” said Huffman. “I can't explain it any better than that, you know, these people deserve better than what they've gotten. Certainly, if they're here, the markers need to be put in place. It needs to be respected. It's a cemetery.”
Archaeologists expect to have the results from the ground testing within the next 30 days.
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