Archaeological Survey Yields African American Cemetery Under Florida Parking Lot

This 3-D scan reveals the locations of unmarked graves that once belonged to Zion Cemetery, an African American cemetery founded in Tampa in 1901 and rediscovered last year. Now, researchers have re-discovered another forgotten African American cemetery in nearby Clearwater, Florida. (Courtesy of the University of South Florida)

Lost African American Cemetery Found Under Florida Parking Lot

by Nora McGreevy/

Residents of Clearwater Heights, a historically black neighborhood in Clearwater, Florida, have long shared rumors of unmarked graves left behind when an all-black cemetery was moved to another town in the 1950s.

Now, an archaeological survey has confirmed this speculation, reports Paul Guzzo for the Tampa Bay Times. According to records obtained by the Times, researchers recently used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to analyze a patch of land in the Tampa Bay community. Though a paved parking lot covers most of the site, a business complex owned by staffing firm FrankCrum occupies a small portion of the land.

Archaeologists discovered 70 possible graves just below the surface of the lot, says Jeff Moates of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. The team only surveyed a fifth of the 2.5-acre cemetery plot, raising the possibility that more graves may be hidden at the site.

The St. Matthew Missionary Baptist Church established the cemetery in 1909. When the church sold the land in 1955, most of the bodies buried in the graveyard were moved to another African American cemetery in nearby Dunedin. But some of the graves were unmarked, and they appear to have been left behind during the move.

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