On Wednesday, archaeologists confirmed the discovery of at least 328 graves from a Black cemetery underneath a business property in Clearwater, Florida, extending to an adjacent road.
WTSP reports the graves are from the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery, established in 1902 and was in operation through the 1940s. The church was pushed to sell the property in the mid-1950s for $15,000. According to researchers, 328 graves were found at the Black cemetery discovered last May.
After the discovery, the state announced it would reserve $30 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan to create the “Abandoned African American Cemeteries” Task Force after first discovering the cemetery under the office building.
Senior archaeologist Erin McKendry presented the team’s findings at the Clearwater African American Cemeteries Memorial Committee meeting hosted by a local NAACP branch.
FrankCrum President Matt Crum previously told WTSP he had no idea a Black cemetery was under the property. Upon hearing about the discovery, he wanted to learn what happened and right past wrongs.
“To me, it’s the next logical step, to find out, you know, what the perimeter of the old cemetery was, how many possible remains we’re talking about,” Crum told WTSP last year. “And then we can start having a conversation with all stakeholders to say, ‘OK, well, what do we do now.’”
Several Black cemeteries and mass graves have been discovered across the country, including one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, containing bodies from people killed in the Tulsa Race Massacre. A Black cemetery of freed slaves was also discovered in Maryland last year.
The Clearwater/Upper Pinellas NAACP is now working with the committee, the city of Clearwater, and FrankCrum to determine the best way to honor those buried at the cemetery and facilitate decisions concerning the cemetery moving forward.