By Trimmel Gomes/Florida News Connection
TALLAHASSEE – After decades of speculation, rumors – and even some evidence that was initially ignored – an archaeological investigation confirms dozens of slaves were buried under what is now Tallahassee’s semi-private Capital City Country Club.
For years, golfers have unknowingly taken their shots atop sunken graves of cotton-plantation slaves near the Florida Capitol.
There are no plans to exhume the 40 bodies known to be resting under the greens. But civil rights leader Delaitre Hollinger, immediate past president of the Tallahassee NAACP branch, says it shouldn’t be business as usual.
He’s calling for a memorial in granite to properly honor the dead.
“I envision it being a sitting area where people can come and sit, and reflect,” says Hollinger. “There also needs to be some sort of fence put up, where we keep golfers out of this general area, and that’s going to take some work.”
The property belongs to the City of Tallahassee, which commissioned the study, and so far, the country club owners appear to be amenable to proposed changes that will be the subject of future meetings.
It’s thought there are more graves yet to be discovered on the sprawling property, which became a golf course in 1908.
Hollinger says the discovery has created a ripple effect with people coming forward with tips of other possible slave cemeteries around the region.
“We know that there are hundreds more, in Leon County alone, that we don’t even know about,” says Hollinger. “And so really, this is – it instills a great sense of pride, but this is just the beginning.”
Leon County was the center of Florida’s plantation economy during the antebellum days and had the state’s highest concentration of slaves.
Hollinger kept digging into old newspaper archives that mentioned the burial site and contacted local elected officials to conduct a study. Researchers suspect there are about 1,500 unmarked slave and African-American cemeteries across the Sunshine State.