Abandoned cemeteries bill readied for final House passage; Senate version heads to final committee
A forgotten Black cemetery in Clearwater gets long-overdue recognition by the state.

Black graves
Last year's task force reported on threatened cemeteries, but this bill creates the office and funding to deal with it.

A bill that would help preserve Black cemeteries threatened with disappearing into obscurity took one step closer to becoming law as it was readied for final passage.

House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell’s bill (HB 49) now awaits a final vote. The legislation would create the Historic Cemeteries Program and the Historic Cemeteries Program Advisory Council within the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. It would also facilitate abandoned and historic cemetery education and maintenance.

Driskell evoked the rediscovery of Zion Cemetery beneath a Tampa public housing complex. That discovery spurred the creation of the Abandoned African-American Cemeteries Task Force that found Zion Cemetery was not a unique set of circumstances.

“Sure enough, our suspicion was correct — we found them all across the state,” Driskell said. “If I have your favorable support, we’ll be able to move one step closer … so that the state of Florida can actually help communities that encounter these issues and not just African American cemeteries but all communities.”

The bill includes a $1 million appropriation for research on abandoned cemeteries and for grants to help repair, restore or maintain African American cemeteries.

Similar legislation (SB 430) that Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell introduced received its second unanimous committee approval Tuesday in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development.

“This bill is about family heritage and respect for sacred places,” said a supporter, Lonnie Man. “In the words of founding father Benjamin Franklin, ‘Show me the manner in which a nation or a community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the law of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.'”

Jane West, representing 1000 Friends of Florida, said their remains a need for this legislation.

“The community of Royal in Sumter County (originally known as Picketsville) was undergoing the threat of having the northern turnpike extension pave over several of their historic African American cemeteries as well as a couple of African American churches,” West said. “The need is imperative.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • Elliott Offen

    April 18, 2023 at 12:33 pm

    The meaning and purpose of all life on earth is to recycle carbon atoms. Therefore, graveyards and former organic lifeforms would be if better use to the biosphere if they were tilled and used to grow plant material. Even many conservatives would be of better use if they were used to fertilize plants and trees at this very moment… waste of organic material and carbon atoms in their current form.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704