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400 graves from Black cemetery potentially buried under East Tampa homes, church

The St. Joseph Aid cemetery served Black Americans during the Jim Crow era but has disappeared from records.

Emerald Morrow

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Published: 2:18 PM EDT May 3, 2022
Updated: 5:49 PM EDT July 26, 2022

Lloyd Sesler said he always wondered what happened to the cemetery along North 34th Street near the Greater Mt. Carmel AME Church in East Tampa.

“We used to travel through it and saw a lot of headstones, but don’t know what happened to them,” he said.

Today, the 87-year-old questions if graves are still there.

Harold Evans remembers seeing the cemetery as a child and wonders the same.

"I never found out what happened to those tombstones...because they started to build homes there," he said.

The East Tampa native said he'd often pass the graves on his way to school. He also remembers his grandmother telling him she buried one of her children there who died at a young age. He doesn't recall her ever saying much more about the cemetery. 

Credit: 10 Tampa Bay
Harold Evans of East Tampa says he remembers as a child seeing graves from St. Joseph Aid Cemetery, which has disappeared from sight and record.

For nearly three years, archaeologists have uncovered hundreds of graves from African American cemeteries that have been destroyed and erased across the Tampa Bay area.

The mystery surrounding the St. Joseph Aid Cemetery, also known as the Montana City Cemetery, could lead to the discovery of at least 400 more.

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