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Zion cemetery

Tampa isn't the only place where long-lost African American graveyards have been found.

Although two have been discovered in the bay area, and more sites are being investigated, the problem has a national scope, says an expert in lost black burial grounds.

The next step in the search for graves from the lost Zion Cemetery continued Tuesday morning in a Tampa auto impound lot.

What once was Zion Cemetery - believed to be Tampa's first African American cemetery - now sits on two-and-a-half acres divided among three owners.

Scans of the section owned by the Tampa Housing Authority have found 144 coffins so far. Now Tampa restauranteur Richard Gonzmart is clarifying what he thinks might be on the portion of property two of his warehouses occupy.

MacDill Air Force Base will start an investigation in January into reports that a lost African American cemetery could be inside its gates.

King High School is the site of an African-American cemetery, Hillsborough County school officials confirmed Wednesday.

In addition, County Commissioner Les Miller told school officials and black civic leaders gathered for the announcement that efforts are underway to confirm another lost cemetery, in the Port Tampa neighborhood next to MacDill Air Force Base.

We could know by next week whether King High School is resting on a forgotten cemetery.

Hillsborough County School officials are looking into the possibility that some grounds of King High School rest on what was a cemetery for indigent African Americans.

“Zion Cemetery isn’t lost – Zion Cemetery was erased.”

That was the message from one University of South Florida archaeologist at a recent presentation at the Tampa Bay History Center about Zion Cemetery, which is believed to be the first African American cemetery in Tampa.

Paul Guzzo in Tampa's Memorial Cemetery
James Borchuck/Tampa Bay Times

Last fall, a cemetery historian came upon a few death certificates from a little-known Tampa burial ground called Zion and he wanted help to learn more about it.

Tampa Bay Times journalist Paul Guzzo took the story on, and after nine months of research, he discovered that no one really knows what happened to hundreds of bodies that were buried in Tampa's first African American cemetery.