Tampa Mayor Jane Castor Apologizes for City’s Role in Erasing Historic Black Cemeteries

Mayor Jane Castor speaks at a news conference at Memorial Park Cemetery to address the city’s role in the upkeep, care and protection of privately owned and city cemeteries. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Past city of Tampa administrations had a direct role in erasing at least two of the historic Black cemeteries that have been discovered in recent years.

At a news conference on Friday, Mayor Jane Castor apologized for the actions of those past administrations when the Tampa Bay Times asked if the city should issue one.

“We can’t right past wrongs but certainly we can acknowledge those and apologize for the wrongs of our community in the past,” she said.

Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough branch of the NAACP, has been requesting that apology since 2019. That’s when the segregation-era Zion Cemetery for Black burials was discovered under Robles Park Village, warehouses and a tow lot.

When informed of the mayor’s statement, Lewis said she accepts “the words, but now we need action to back up those words. People suffered. The African American community suffered. What will the city do?”

That’s why the news conference was called.

Standing in East Tampa’s recently abandoned Memorial Park Cemetery, the city detailed plans to ensure that Tampa cemeteries are better protected.

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SOURCE: Tampa Bay Times, Paul Guzzo