Historic Cemeteries of Sarasota


Sarasota has many pre-Columbian burial grounds - mounds and cemeteries belonging to the ancient ones of the region. This page focuses on fairly recent burial grounds, those created in the late 19th century and early 20th century, documented by recent surveys. Recognizing that cemeteries are heterotopias, places apart, anthropological studies focus on community identity, social differences, and social practices, particularly commemoration and historic preservation. In Sarasota, the Whitaker Pioneer Cemetery starts in 1879 and the Rosemary Cemetery 1886; the first cemetery for African Americans – Sarasota was a segregated town – opened in 1905 as the Oaklands/Woodlawn Cemetery and the second as the Galilee Cemetery in 1932.

For those interested in genealogy research, please see the Genealogy Society of Sarasota page, their databases were first published in 1992 and are being updated. Here we examine two historic cemeteries as anthropological landscapes.

Conditions at the Rosemary, Oaklands/Woodlawn, and Galilee cemeteries at the start of the 21st century were not good. In 2001, Professor Uzi Baram organized research at the Rosemary Cemetery; in 2010, he was asked to examine the Galilee Cemetery. Historic preservation started with documentation of the cemeteries, surveying and recording all the extant grave markets to create a database for all the lives resting there as well as creating outreach materials. This page offers an overview of these historic cemeteries in Sarasota and educational resources created by New College students for each cemetery respectively.

Rosemary Cemetery
Florida Mortgage and Investment Company platted Sarasota in 1885 by (filed in 1886 with Manatee County); one component was a cemetery named Rosemary, a herb of remembrance. Many of the founding parents of Sarasota are buried at the Rosemary Cemetery, located on Central Avenue just north of Main Street.

Rosemary Cemetery - Photograph by Uzi Baram
In January 2002, Uzi Baram as an Anthropology professor at New College of Florida and Susan Lynn White as Sarasota County Archaeologist organized a survey of the Rosemary Cemetery to support the community-based Rosemary Committee in a national registry of historic places nomination. New College students documented each of the extant 660 grave markers. 
Rosemary survey images
As part of that January 2002 project, one of the eight New College students documenting the cemetery, Lauren Hanson, created a CD available at the Sarasota County History Center. Elements of the educational resources are organized as Project Rosemary: Sarasota's Dead and Living History.

The Florida Division of Historic Resources uses the project as a case study in preservation and protection of historic cemeteries - see Division of Historical Resources


Galilee Cemetery
As early as the 1890s, African Americans settled north of downtown in the area then known as “Black Bottom” and later Overtown. In 1905 Florida Mortgage and Investment Company sold land to, and this comes from the deed, "the trustees of the colored community" for the Oakland Cemetery, also known as Woodlawn Cemetery. In 1914, Charles Thompson build new residences for African Americans and called Newtown Estates; north of Overtown, Newtown grew in size in the Boom Times racial politics of geography. In 1932, a second cemetery was opened for the African American community in segregated Sarasota: the Galilee Cemetery, located on Washington Boulevard, just south of Myrtle Street. 
Galilee Cemetery - Photograph by Uzi Baram
In 2010, the City of Sarasota asked Uzi Baram, Anthropology Professor and now Director of the newly opened New College Public Archaeology Lab to work with the community-based Woodlawn-Galilee Cemetary Restoration Task Force. Working with State College of Florida and New College students, each and every one of the extant 1544 grave markers were documented. 
The process of the survey is presented in a 29-minute video Beauty in a Forgotten Space 

Galilee Cemetery: Beauty in a Forgotten Space

the film is available also at the Archaeology Channel: http://www.archaeologychannel.org/video-main-menu/video-guide-main/video-guide-summary/1853-galilee-cemetery-beauty-in-a-forgotten-space

The survey of the Galilee Cemetery included documentation of each and every extant grave marker, under an ethic that every life represented at the cemetery matters. A long list of wonderful New College students, as well as several students from State College of Florida and volunteers from Time Sifters Archaeological Society created the database, on file at the Sarasota County History Center. Several New College students created educational materials for the Galilee Cemetery, organized as Resources on the Galilee Cemetery, Sarasota.
Galilee in Regional studies
Uzi Baram's Report on the 2010-12 Survey of the Galilee Cemetery in Sarasota, Florida: Community, Race, and Commemoration (New College Public Archaeology Lab Research Series, 2012) is available through Selby Public Library or online at ncf.academia.edu/UziBaram. In June 2013, the City Commission of the City of Sarasota recognized the effort with a presentation of a commemorative plaque.
City recognition 2013  

City Recognition 2013

These cemetery surveys documented the grave markers, created educational materials, and engaged students and residents to visit and appreciate the heritage at these places apart. Other historic cemeteries in Sarasota include the St. John's / Crocker Memorial Cemetery (see information at Sarasota County Historic Resources) and the Whitaker Cemetery (maintained by the Sara DeSoto chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution).

In March 2020, Florida Archaeology Month focused on African American Cemeteries 
FAM 2020




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