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Florida Senate Earmarks $100K For Memorials At Long-Forgotten Zion, Ridgewood Cemeteries

Two long-forgotten African-American cemeteries in the Tampa are likely going to get memorials, thanks to one of the area’s state lawmakers.

Senator Janet Cruz filed an amendment to her chamber’s budget on Wednesday asking for $100,000 – at $50,000 each – to construct memorials at the Zion and Ridgewood cemeteries. The cemeteries, where hundreds of people were buried in the early-to-mid 1900s, were lost to development. But recent Tampa Bay Times investigations put them in the spotlight. Cruz’s amendment was adopted to the Senate budget, which the chamber approved unanimously Thursday.

“Zion Cemetery was the first African-American cemetery recognized by the city, and archaeologists have determined that there are more than 300 grave sites under the Tampa Housing Authority Property, and other private property that was built over the Zion cemetery in the 1950s,” Cruz explained. “Ridgewood Cemetery was opened by the City in 1942, and the property was sold in ’57, to a private company and then to the Hillsborough County School District.”

Sen. Darryl Rouson of Hillsborough County says the two memorials will offer a "solemn reminder" of the cemeteries’ history – “a reminder of sad realities of Florida’s history. But also, memorials at these sites will allow our communities to heal.”

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.