Robles Park residents living atop old cemetery in process of moving

Hillsborough County

 TAMPA (WFLA) — For Roneshia Costin, it’s all about life and death.

She’s lived here in Robles Park Village in Tampa on and off her entire life. Never once did it occur to her that in the ground beneath her are bodies that have been buried here for more than 100 years.

Her home was built years ago on the site of the old Zion Cemetery, an African American burial ground.

“If those people are buried here that long, how did you guys miss that?” she said.

When asked what it’s like knowing there are human bodies buried beneath her,  she said, “Our ancestors at that the first black cemetery…  as what I’m learning… yeah, I feel some type of way about it. It’s saddening that I’m living on top of folks… I mean it’s saddening.”

Officials from the University of South Florida, using ground-penetrating radar, found about 126 coffin-shaped items under the ground.

And there are possibly even more.

Now, the Tampa Housing Authority is working to relocate nearly 100 people who live here.

“We are relocating a portion of Robles Park,” Tampa Housing Authority’s Lillian Stringer said. “It has five buildings where the bodies are close to the building. So our plans are to relocate the families in those five buildings.”

What they do not plan to do is to disturb the eternal rest of those buried here.

“It is our deepest wish that the bodies that are interred there now, will not be disturbed. It’s been over 1oo years, so we’re not remotely thinking about moving the bodies.”

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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