The Florida Senate passes legislation to create a statewide task force
to identify and memorialize abandoned African-American cemeteries
After months of discoveries of abandoned African-American cemeteries across Florida, the Florida Senate unanimously passed legislation today to form a statewide task force for the historical preservation of African-American cemeteries and burial sites (SB 220). This legislation, sponsored by Senator Janet Cruz (D-Tampa), was filed this past summer after the Tampa Bay Times revealed that the first African-American cemetery recognized by the City of Tampa, Zion Cemetery, along with hundreds of graves, had been largely forgotten as development atop the site proceeded over decades.
Following the Tampa Bay Times’ stories on Zion Cemetery, Senator Cruz worked with state and local officials to ensure that Florida addressed these injustices during the upcoming 2020 Legislative Session. Since Senate Bill 220 was filed, multiple abandoned cemeteries have been re-discovered across the state. In Tampa, there have been graves found at the site of King High School and MacDill Air Force Base. Most recently, in Jacksonville, historic headstones from Eastport Cemetery were unearthed by road construction. According to veterans grave registration documents from the 1940s, Eastport Cemetery is the resting place for many African-American veterans.
In response to the passage of Senate Bill 220, Senator Janet Cruz offered the following statement:
“I am honored to have the support of my Senate colleagues in passing this important legislation. This task force will restore honor and dignity to all those who came before us. Florida’s history is incredibly unique. But it has been incomplete for too long. I am humbled to have the opportunity to advocate for those who have been forgotten from our state’s history and I look forward to seeing all of the great work this task force will accomplish.”