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North Greenwood Cemetery becomes a teachable moment

Feb. 23, 2021

The Pinellas County Schools History Department engaged in a conversation and a student driven live question and answer session with key players when it was discovered that there may be graves remaining in a cemetery in the North Greenwood community. The former graveyard resided on school board property near Clearwater Intermediate School.

The North Greenwood Cemetery served the black community from 1940 to 1954. It was then sold to the district to build Pinellas High School and a city pool. The remains of 350 people were moved to Parklawn Memorial Cemetery in Dunedin. But some remaining residents felt that there were still bodies in unmarked graves.

Along with the Upper Pinellas Branch of the NAACP, the City of Clearwater and the district, the Florida Public Archaeology Network and Cardno were brought in to excavate three areas. It was confirmed that 29 graves were still there. A grave marker and a few coins were also located.

After the excavation,  Zebbie D. Atkinson IV, president of the NAACP Upper Pinellas County Branch, Jeff Moates of the Florida Public Archeology and Erin McKendry of Cardno, were interviewed for two informational videos about the community and the process. They also answered student questions live via Zoom. The link was shared with middle and high school Social Studies teachers who allowed students to watch the presentation and ask questions.

Mathew Blum, the district’s 9-12 Social Studies specialists, said we often think about history on a large scale, like national or international events, but studying local history can help us feel more connected to those large-scale events or pieces of history and our community.

“Local history is rich in stories of struggle and triumph,” Blum said. “It provides us the opportunity to see how societal changes impacted ordinary people and places we may pass by every day. It helps us connect authentically with what we might call the larger stories in history.”

Blum went on to say  that “places like North Greenwood Cemetery can provide us opportunities to remember the past through research and study and drive our work on making sure the history of our community is known and remembered.”