Radar Detects Long-Forgotten Coffins at High School

Abandoned black cemetery is discovered in Tampa
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 21, 2019 9:30 AM CST
Long-Forgotten Black Cemetery Found at High School
Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView, use ground-penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High School campus in search of Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida, on October 23, 2019.   (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Some 145 coffins found beneath a Florida high school are believed to belong to a forgotten African-American cemetery—and it's not the only one in Tampa. "This hurts. Deeply," says Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP. A ground-penetrating radar survey showed the coffins buried 3 to 5 feet deep on an acre of open land at Clarence Leon King High School, reports CNN. Officials launched the survey last month after a school board member learned of a possible burial ground dubbed Ridgewood Cemetery, where records show nearly 270 people, including up to 77 infants and children, were buried between 1942 and 1954—about six years before the school opened.

The area near an agricultural building will remain fenced off until experts can examine it. Meanwhile, attention has turned to another location. Per the Tampa Bay Times, records indicate there is an African-American cemetery on land allocated to the MacDill Air Force Base in Port Tampa. "We do have resources that will be allocated in the near future to either confirm or deny it is on the base," a rep says. The news follows the September discovery of more than 120 possible coffins at what could be the first African-American burial ground in the city beneath an apartment complex, reports WFTS. "I am sick of this … that we can be thrown away," says Lewis. "Nobody is telling these people's history." (More burial site stories.)

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