Historical marker honors Tampa’s largest forgotten African American cemetery

A new historical marker was unveiled Friday at the site of the old College Hill Cemetery in Tampa, where hundreds of minorities, mostly African Americans, were buried more than a century ago, before they were erased from maps in the mid-20th century.

The marker is located near the corner of East 24th Avenue and North 26th Street. It details the history of College Hill Cemetery and the 1,200 people who were buried there.

According to Tampa historians, College Hill is the first known graveyard in Tampa for African Americans. It was also used for other minorities, including Cuban immigrants.

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"Race, color, creed, it shouldn't matter. These people should not be forgotten. And maybe through this, we can learn from the past mistakes made and for the future. Never, ever repeat this," said Angela Alderman, who spearheaded the mission to install the marker. "The marker basically symbolizes the tombstones and aren't there so they can never be forgotten. It'll never go away."

Alderman's learned her great-grandfather was buried at College Hill while looking at his death certificate. She said this was an emotional day for her family.

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"I never knew my great uncle, obviously, as he passed in 1917. But he's my legacy, he's my heart," she said. "He's a part of what I am and is part of me. So it was very, very emotional to see this take place because it's not just about him. There are 1,200 people buried with him and they had families that loved them."

College Hill is the largest of the forgotten African American cemeteries that have been discovered in recent years. Zion Cemetery, which was located under the Robles Park housing development in 2019, was the first and is expected to be the next lost graveyard to receive a historical marker.

Since 2019, historians and scientists have identified up to a dozen forgotten African American cemeteries in the Bay Area. Archeologists have found graves on six of them using ground-penetrating radar. It's unclear how many more will receive markers, but community members and activists have been urging city and county leaders to determine an appropriate way to memorialize those who were buried on those lands.