LEGISLATION CLEARING WAY: Historic Cemeteries Program would help resurrect abandoned African American graveyards throughout the state, such as Westview Cemetery in Pompano Beach and LaGrange in Brevard County. PHOTOS COURTESY OF WIKIPEDIA
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – Efforts to restore abandoned African American cemeteries in Florida including Westview Cemetery in Pompano Beach, which is the ﬁnal resting place of actress and star of Good Times Esther Rolle, secured a victory in the state Legislature.
Led by Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell, Jr., of West Palm Beach and State Rep. and House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell of Tampa, both chambers approved House Bill 49 and SB 430, which are designed to create a Historic Cemeteries Program and help restore abandoned African American graveyards throughout the state.
Besides Westview Cemetery, also on the list are Old Groveland cemetery in the City of Groveland, Greenwood in Orange County, and LaGrange in Brevard County.
The bill calls for a task force authorized by the Legislature to conduct a study on the issue of abandoned Black cemeteries to determine funding to repair, restore and maintain the historically grave sites.
"I would like to announce that my bill SB 430 Abandoned and Historic Cemeteries has passed," said Powell. "This legislation ﬁnally gives us methods and means to identify forgotten and abandoned AfricanAmerican burial sites and recognize their locations throughout the state of Florida. It falls to this generation to honor those who came before us."
Restoring and maintaining the Westview Cemetery in Pompano Beach might be complicated.
The legislation could symtie the sale of the 4.5acre land at 1900 N.W. 24th Street, which has been in disarray over the years. African American activists have been ﬁghting to preserve the cemetery as an historic landmark.
But the issue landed in the courts before the legislation passed. A lawsuit to stymie the sale of the Westview Cemetery was dismissed in Broward County Circuit Court last year and the case is scheduled to be heard in the Fourth District Court of Appeal this year.
The cemetery association’s board of trustees voted in 2021 to sell the land, which is the ﬁnal resting place for about 400 Pompano Beach natives and residents, to KZ Copans, a development company, for an estimated $1.2 million.
The Westview Cemetery was built in 1952 during segregation for Blacks who lived in Pompano Beach where they could be buried and a church formed the cemetery’s association.
KZ Copans was planning to build industrial warehouses, a distribution center and a storage facility on the land.
Orlando Sen. Geraldine Thompson, a Democrat, said it’s important to preserve historic Black cemeteries such as Greenwood and LaGrange, where slain civil rights leaders July Perry and Harriette and Harry T. Moore were buried.
"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."