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Leon County closes part of Miccosukee Greenway spur trail to preserve New Hope Cemetery

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 5:01 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - An African American cemetery behind the Testerina Primitive Baptist Church on Miccosukee Road is getting new recognition.

The descendants of people buried there, including a large percentage of former slaves, have pushed for preservation and protection of the site for about two years.

The Division of Historical Resources, or DHR, is working to get funding for a historical marker.

In addition, Leon County has agreed to maintain the area, and it has closed the “spur trail,” a user-created trail off the Miccosukee Greenway.

Tallahassee native Gloria Anderson has spearheaded the efforts to recognize the cemetery. She began researching her father’s lineage 25 years ago, and in September of 2020, worked with the state to authenticate the New Hope site.

She was thrilled by the latest markers.

“We cried. Because it was really, it was a solemn moment,” Gloria Anderson said. “I just felt so good that we were able to find our ancestors and honor them.”

Anderson now works with a larger group on commemorating the site.

Mary H. Austin Rogers remembers walking through the cemetery as a child and seeing headstones.

“They wasn’t big, they was small, but they was there,” Rogers said.

Dr. Sandra Thompson, who works at FAMU, has many questions about the site.

“If there are headstones are they in need of repair? Is there any other obstacles that are there. Because, and then to see who all the people are, because that is what’s going to give us our history,” Thompson said.

She believes the markers are a start, but she adds that historians need access to the cemetery to learn about who is buried there.

“If you do not know where you came from, then you do not know how to truly go forward,” Thompson said.

The cemetery is located in District 4, under the purview of Commissioner Brian Welch.

He says local leaders have a duty to preserve historically significant spots, while allowing the County to grow.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us as policy makers to do everything we can do preserve them and make sure they’re available for future generations to kind of remember our past,” Welch said.

County Commissioners have a status report on the cemetery during Tuesday’s meeting; County staff writes in the agenda item that they plan to coordinate the installation of the historical marker when it’s ready.

The descendants of those buried in the cemetery want more answers and hope for educational opportunities for young people.

“There is more work to be done,” Rogers said.

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