TAMPA, Fla. — The location of yet another one of Tampa Bay's historic Black cemeteries has been confirmed.

According to MacDill Air Force Base, a non-intrusive archaeological survey conducted in 2022 and 2023 found the Port Tampa Cemetery sat on part of what's now the base's Tanker Way gate.

What You Need To Know

  • MacDill Air Force Base says 121 probable and possible graves were found near its Tanker Way Gate

  • The graves are part of the Port Tampa Cemetery

  • This cemetery is one of a number of historic Black cemeteries that have been rediscovered in Tampa Bay in recent years

  • Read previous coverage here

"We were using ground penetrating radar, cadaver dogs, historical records, as well as oral accounts," said USAF 2nd Lt. Laura Anderson, Public Affairs Officer with the 6th Air Refueling Wing.

MacDill said the Tampa Bay History Center first let them know of a possible cemetery on their land in 2019. Anderson said 58 probable and 63 possible graves have been identified, some likely dating back to the late 1800s. She said by the time MacDill was granted the land in 1941, the area was overgrown.

"Since it wasn't a cemetery in the traditional sense at that point in time, there weren't any markers saying there were graves here, and there were no headstones that we could use to identify that there had been graves," Anderson said.

"This is very heavy, and it's very emotional when you stop to think about it," said Yvette Lewis, president of the NAACP's Hillsborough County branch.

Those laid to rest in the Port Tampa Cemetery were honored during a memorial ceremony three years ago. Lewis said she wants to see further searches to make sure all graves are found.

"And then, you know, have a place where they can just rest in peace from here on out," Lewis said. "I would love to find some of the relatives."

Anderson said there are plans to search an area to the north of the first site this year.

"We made that promise a couple years ago that we were going to look, and we've kept that promise," said Anderson. "We kept looking, and we're not going to stop until we've made sure that we've located everything that we possibly can."

Anderson said the results of this year's search should be complete by the middle of 2025.