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Published on June 19, 2024
Tampa City Council Member Investigates Allegations of Historic Cemetery Desecration at Italian Club SiteSource: Google Street View

Tampa City Council member Gwen Henderson has become the focal point of a developing story involving the Italian Club Cemetery in Tampa, amid allegations that the site may have been a historic Black and Cuban cemetery. A text message received by Henderson from a retired city employee, forwarded with permission on the condition of anonymity, suggests that more than 1,200 graves of early Black and Cuban residents may have been desecrated when the parking lot for the Italian Club Cemetery was established, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Records from the City of Tampa’s Archives and Records Department confirm that the property, located at 2520 E. 24th Ave., was originally used for College Hill Cemetery plots. Henderson's shock upon learning of the implications, saying, "I had a duty as a council woman because I’m not afraid. I don’t owe anyone anything. It was easy for me to at least be a part of the conversation and say hey, I heard what the citizens are saying," according to Spectrum Bay News 9. The text message reportedly included remarks from a leader within the Italian Club of Tampa, confessing to knowledge of the existence of graves where the parking lot now lies.

The implications of this revelation have brought distress to individuals such as Angela Alderman Wynn, whose great uncle was once buried in College Hill Cemetery. She expressed the need for closure and healing, stating, "We need to know where they’re at. And they’re not releasing their scan results, so that tells me either anomalies came up and they found something or nothing showed up and they have to explain where they moved 1,200 bodies," she told Spectrum Bay News 9. Despite the gravity of these claims, the results from ground penetrating radar scans at the Italian Club of Tampa Cemetery have yet to be made public.

The Italian Club, when requested for a statement on these allegations, remarked on the difficulty of responding to an unnamed source without evidence and insisted, "There is no way we would be moving grave markers," but the City Council intends to continue pushing for transparency. The ongoing situation promises further investigation and potential action as a community, with a robust discussion anticipated in the city's upcoming council meeting, Spot on Florida reports.

Tampa-Community & Society