Using ground-penetrating radar and cadaver dogs, searchers found 11 possible unmarked graves between 2019 and 2021. That wasn’t enough to conclusively say they had found a cemetery as the graves were spread sporadically, Sergeant Montrose said.
“But there were enough bodies that we thought we should memorialize it,” he added.
The cemetery was discovered on a grassy area near a flight line on the base, which is spread over more than 5,700 acres.
The base held a memorial service in February 2021 and dedicated a plaque to those buried there.
“This cemetery was erased; this cemetery was forgotten; this land was taken from them,” Yvette Lewis, the president of the Hillsborough County branch of the N.A.A.C.P., said at the time, of those buried there. “Their loved ones laid them down so they could rest their souls, not to be trampled over, covered up, walked on.”
A Hillsborough county judge, Lisa Campbell, whose grandparent’s first-born child was buried at the site, told attendees, “We all are going to have to grapple with how and why things like this happen.”
“Anyone from any culture expects you would be able to come see your loved ones if you wanted, to come sit and solemnly remember them; in this case that didn’t happen,” she said.