Burial Grounds Found on Tampa School Property

A Florida school district recently discovered nearly 150 unmarked graves on the property of King High School in Tampa, Florida after receiving a tip.

Based on radar scans of the property, about 145 coffins were found buried three to five feet below the ground, according to Hillsborough County Public Schools.

The graves are believed to be part of the historic Ridgewood Cemetery, which was primarily a burial ground for African Americans. The cemetery opened in 1942 and the school district purchased the land in 1959. A school board member received a tip from someone who suggested there might be a cemetery on the property based on historical data.

Geophysical technicians, hired by the district, mapped and scanned the land and found “clear evidence of burials” in the area — which was used for the school's agricultural program. It contained lab facilities, a building and an open field for animals, reported NBC News.

More than 250 graves are believed to be interred at the cemetery, but some may be too decayed to be detected by radar. Records show as many as 77 of the people buried in the cemetery are infants or children.

The Hillsborough County Public Schools sent its findings to the county medical examiner and state archeologist who will review the findings and determine whether the land should be returned to the school. The school plans to relocate the agricultural building, depending the outcome of the review.

The school created a Historical Response Committee to "discuss proper ways to memorialize the individuals, how to best care for the space and learning opportunities for students at King High School and other schools."

About the Author

Yvonne Marquez is senior editor of Spaces4Learning K-12. She can be reached at ymarquez@1105media.com.