A Tallahassee county club located on the grounds that once was a 500-acre plantation has just learned that its facility is sitting above a grave burial site of 40 slaves.
The ghostly site is reminiscent of the 1982 blockbuster supernatural horror film “Poltergeist” written and produced by Steven Spielberg, set in a beautiful upscale California suburb of newly built homes sitting above a sprawling graveyard, that should have been moved to another location, however deceitful develops simply moved the headstones leaving the graves behind.
The graves were discovered thanks to the combined efforts of Delaitre Hollinger, the immediate past president of the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP, and Jeffrey Shanks, a park service archaeologist.
According to the Associated Press, Hollinger lamented after the discovery of the gravesites, “When I stand here on a cemetery for slaves, it makes me thoughtful and pensive,”
Adding, “They deserve much better than this. And they deserved much better than what occurred in that era.”
Hollinger himself is a descendant of slaves, whose ancestors died in the County, has been instrumental in attempting to rediscover countless slave burial sites, long forgotten in Florida, which once boasted hundreds of plantations. Recent documents reveal that 3 out of 4 people living within Leon County were slaves; however, the number of gravesites actually preserved is extremely low.
Jay Revell, a self-described historian and vice president of Tallahassee’s chamber of commerce, believes that the Capital City Country Club where the 40 gravesites are located are well preserved because the area in question has seldom been “trammeled over.”
Adding, “A hundred years ago when the golf course was constructed there was certainly no technology to decipher what was or wasn’t here.”
Shanks volunteered his services after Hollinger contacted Tallahassee city officials for help finding the graveyards. The painstaking research involved coming through old documents, and an old newspaper article that mentioned the cemetery. Once that link was established that there once was a gravesite within that general location, Shanks was then able to use a little modern technology in the form of radar and a more practical solution enlisting the aid of cadaver-sniffing dogs to locate the graveyard.
He was then able to scan about 7,000 meters of ground, finally pinpointing and identifying the exact location of the individual graves.
Shanks was delighted that he was able to find the graves, however, acknowledged to the regarding forgotten slave sites, “It’s a really serious problem.”
Adding, “It’s not just a Florida problem. It’s really a problem across the Southeast.”
It’s estimated by the Florida State Task Force that there may be thousands of unmarked or deserted African American or slave cemeteries across the state.
Historian Jonathan Lammers, who wrote a report about what was once the Houston Plantation property, said to the AP.
“They were nameless on census records, and they are nameless and unremembered in death. It’s safe to say that there are thousands upon thousands of these graves in Leon County and hundreds and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, across the Southeast that remain unknown today.”
At the Capital City Country Club, where the 40 graves were discovered, there are no plans to exhume or disturb any of the remains.
Hollinger recommended that the area be fenced off so that golfers won’t tread over the graves. He also proposes a small memorial that will recount the unvarnished history of the slave trade, as a reminder that this is indeed a part of our history.
Adding he doesn’t want the history of these graves “to be prettied up” or romanticized. “I want us to be accurate and truthful in the story we tell.”
However it’s worth noting that as ugly as the slave trade was in America, we should also remind those who despise America, it’s because of history that great nations like ours can absorb the truth about our past while celebrating the election of a black man within a mere lifetime and a half.