On Wednesday (Aug. 31), archaeologists uncovered 258 more graves from an African American cemetery. The site was found under a business in Clearwater, Florida, according to local Tampa news station WTSP 10. In 1902, the St. Matthews Baptist Church Cemetery began operating and ran until the 1940s. Wednesday’s discovery brings the total number of graves found at the location to 328.
Community members were outraged to discover Black gravesites were disregarded in order to build companies. FrankCrum is the human resource consulting business in Clearwater that sits on the gravesite. Company President Matt Crum claimed he and his family had no knowledge of the buried bodies on their property.
In May 2021, Crum told the news station he wanted to do whatever he could to make the situation right. “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. And then we can start having a conversation with all stakeholders to say, ‘Okay, well, what do we do now?’” he said.
Clearwater and the Upper Pinellas’ NAACP chapter are working with the Clearwater African American Cemeteries Memorial Committee to find a way to honor the forgotten lives buried under the Florida business. A tweet from June 2020 mentions “long-shared rumors of unmarked graves (in Clearwater) left behind when an all-Black cemetery was moved to another town in the 1950s.”
The previous year, a reporter for WTSP 10 shared that FrankCrum decided to “allow archaeologists to scan its property for graves from a forgotten Black cemetery in Clearwater.” The graves were reportedly found using radar technology instead of digging. Last December, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump spoke out about the blatant neglect of the Black people buried in the city.
“Clearwater officials have found a FOURTH abandoned cemetery filled with African American graves. Black residents were often falsely told that the burial sites had been relocated, when, in actuality, they’d been deliberately built over!” Crump tweeted.
BREAKING: Archaeologists confirm 258 additional graves from Black cemetery at FrankCrum business property in Clearwater. Expanded radar search shows graves extend out to Missouri Ave.
An initial search a few years ago found 70 graves. The expanded search confirms 328 in total.
— Emerald Morrow (WTSP) (@EmeraldMorrow) August 31, 2022
This photo shows where radar detected graves from a destroyed Black Cemetery under parking lots, partially under the FrankCrum building & under Missouri Ave. in Clearwater.
— Emerald Morrow (WTSP) (@EmeraldMorrow) September 1, 2022
FrankCrum staffing firm told me today it will allow archaeologists to scan its property for graves from a forgotten black cemetery in Clearwater. https://t.co/D0vxAXsjKL
— Emerald Morrow (WTSP) (@EmeraldMorrow) December 10, 2019
Residents of Clearwater Heights, a historically black neighborhood in Clearwater, Florida, have long shared rumors of unmarked graves left behind when an all-black cemetery was moved to another town in the 1950s. https://t.co/Of7NhPOXGl
— Smithsonian Magazine (@SmithsonianMag) June 26, 2020
Clearwater officials have found a FOURTH abandoned cemetery filled with African American graves. Black residents were often falsely told that the burial sites had been relocated when in actuality, they'd been deliberately built over! https://t.co/pbCLjqi2Qi
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) December 28, 2021