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Woodlawn Cemetery could help solve mystery of Tampa’s erased Black cemeteries

August 03, 2022

Rebecca O’Sullivan and Paul Jones discuss their work searching for Tampa’s missing segregation-era Black burial grounds with the Tampa Bay Times

In 1900, the Tampa City Council agreed to stake off Woodlawn Cemetery’s “colored section.” During the era of segregation, it was a move that ensured the area would be visibly separated from the rest of the 40-acre Tampa Heights burial ground.

Stakes still mark three sides of that section. They help locate what was one of at least eight turn-of-the-century burial grounds for the Tampa area’s Black residents.

The others were not so easy to find. Each was erased, built over and then discovered due to Tampa Bay Times investigations spanning four years.

It was previously believed that the now-integrated Woodlawn’s original Black section was also erased, possibly located on vacant cemetery land now owned by Greater Tampa Showmen’s Association that was for sale last year.

Rebecca O’Sullivan, an archaeologist with Stantec, found its true location by tracking Woodlawn’s early 20th century burials. She realized it was still staked off.

Her discovery might end the search for Tampa’s missing segregation-era Black burial grounds and provide further clarity for why some were erased.

Read full article in the Tampa Bay Times.

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