$500K allocated for restoration of Black cemetery in Florida

The state's "Abandoned African American Cemeteries" task force has uncovered several forgotten Black burial grounds statewide since 2021.

The city of Groveland, Florida, roughly 30 miles west of Orlando, has received nearly $500,000 in state-allocated funds to help restore one of several abandoned African American cemeteries that local leaders have discovered across the state over the past year, Spectrum News 13 reported.

Per the outlet, the “Abandoned African American Cemeteries” task force was created in Florida in 2021 following a wave of community backlash regarding the city’s decision to build over an abandoned Black cemetery.

Reports say the state has earmarked $30 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for the task force, a portion of which will be used to support the uncovering and restoration of the Oak Tree Union Colored Cemetery in Groveland.

Kevin Carroll, chief of the Groveland Fire Department, said he and his colleagues aim to make known the history of the site, which he said dates back to the turn of the 1900s when Black workers in then-Taylorville were given a 1.25-acre land parcel as a burial ground for loved ones.

Caroll told News 13 that several files that contained the names of people in the burial site had been “eaten by the rats, then put into a burn pile and disposed of,” so uncovering details about the cemetery is a grueling task.

The outlet reported that within the burial site lay roughly 70 of Carroll ancestors. He is working alongside Groveland Human Resources Director Deo Persaud to honor them, including World War I veteran Henry Spellman.

“Those of us in public safety or in the military without the logistical people doing what they do and bringing the equipment and supplies that we need, nothing really gets done,” Carroll told News 13, adding: “That’s the point of the project, bring dignity and respect to these people who were mistreated even after their deaths.”

The duo say the project will take several years, and next steps before the grounds can be restored include clearing up the overgrowth that has accumulated due to decades of neglect. Persaud also explained that there’s an “invasive species of trees that are literally spreading everywhere are taking up the natural environment.” 

“It brings sadness when you walk through here, but I think what director Persaud and myself are doing and the community and the city is doing is taking that sadness and redirecting it and using that towards our passion,” Carroll said.

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