Bill to protect neglected African-American cemeteries in Florida moves forward in the House

Share this:


A subcommittee in the Florida House advanced a bill that funds efforts to protect historic African-American cemeteries. The bill was sparked by a history of neglect of African-American cemeteries.

The Florida House Infrastructure and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee voted to move House Bill 49 forward. The bill would create a Historic Cemeteries Program to provide grants to research, restore and maintain abandoned African-American cemeteries.

“This funding mechanism is going to help us when people in communities reach out and say ‘hey we need help’, no longer will we have to say ‘I’m so sorry there is nothing we can do’, we’ll say ‘yes this is the process and let us help you,’” Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, Florida Democrat and sponsor of the bill, told legislators. She said the idea was sparked by Zion Cemetery, Tampa’s first African-American cemetery. The cemetery was destroyed by the housing authority in the 20th Century to build housing for mostly-white communities.

“Tampa Housing Authority built on top of an abandoned Black cemetery, and money exchanged hands knowing that there was a cemetery there, so it caused a lot of trauma and re-traumatization to the community once it was uncovered,” Driskell said.

Numerous legislators and members of the public voiced support for the bill, including the chair of the committee, Republican Alex Andrade from Pensacola.

“I appreciate you taking on this work to try and memorialize that and preserve it for future generations to learn from and understand what was going on at that time, so thank you very much. ”

Historically African-American cemeteries can be found in Pompano Beach, Pensacola, and other cities in Florida

The bill passed unanimously. Its next stop is the House State Affairs Committee, but no date has been set.