Florida Legislature approves bill to help restore historic Black cemeteries
The Florida Senate unanimously agreed Thursday to create a Historic Cemeteries Program and help restore abandoned Black graveyards throughout the state.
The bill — House Bill 49 — now goes to the governor for his signature.
The bill was sponsored by Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa.
It implements the recommendations of a task force authorized by the Legislature two years ago to study the issue of abandoned African American cemeteries.
The bill creates and staffs a Historic Cemeteries Program within the Department of State's Division of Historical Resources and funds grants to research, repair, restore and maintain those abandoned cemeteries.
It establishes an advisory council and strengthens the hand of community groups seeking to rescue old graveyards.
The Senate sponsor, Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell, of Palm Beach County, said Thursday that funds had been appropriated for the program.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, spoke about the importance of historic Black cemeteries like Greenwood in Orange County and LaGrange in Brevard.
She said they help preserve the history of slain civil rights leaders like July Perry and Harriette and Harry T. Moore.
"There is so much in terms of our culture," Thompson said, "so much in terms of our heritage, so many lives that were lived, so many sacrifices that were made, and we need to honor those individuals."