The Hurricane of 1928, also known as the San Felipe Segundo hurricane, was one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. It caused widespread devastation throughout the Caribbean and the southeastern United States, including Florida. While the storm’s impact was felt by all who lived in its path, it had a particularly devastating impact on African-American communities in Florida.
In the aftermath of the hurricane, hundreds of African-American laborers who worked in the state’s agriculture industry were killed, and their bodies were often left unburied or buried in mass graves without proper identification. Many of these graves were lost or forgotten over time, but in recent years, efforts have been made to uncover and honor the lives lost in these tragic events.
One of the most significant sites associated with the Hurricane of 1928 is the African-American Mass Burial Site in West Palm Beach, Florida. Approximately 674 black victims were buried in a mass grave in the City’s pauper’s burial field at Tamarind Avenue and 25th Street. Many of these individuals were migrant workers who had come to Florida to work in the state’s agricultural industry, and they had no family or community ties to the area.
The discovery of this burial site was made in 1990, when construction workers uncovered human remains during excavation work in the area. The city of West Palm Beach then launched an investigation into the site, working with local historians and community members to uncover the full extent of the tragedy that had occurred there.
In 2000, a memorial was established at the site, recognizing the lives lost and providing a space for commemoration and reflection. The memorial is comprised of a concrete platform that houses a mosaic depicting a storm cloud and a group of people huddled together in the rain. It also includes a plaque that reads, “In memory of the African-American victims of the 1928 hurricane whose unmarked graves are in this area. May they rest in peace.”
The African-American Mass Burial Site is an important reminder of the racial inequalities that existed in Florida during the early 20th century. African-American communities were disproportionately affected by the hurricane due to systemic discrimination and segregation that limited their access to safe housing, medical care, and other resources that could have helped them survive the storm.
It is also a reminder of the importance of preserving and honoring the history of marginalized communities. For many years, the stories of the African-American victims of the Hurricane of 1928 were ignored or forgotten, and their graves were left unmarked and unprotected. The establishment of the memorial at the African-American Mass Burial Site represents a significant step towards acknowledging and honoring their lives and legacies.
The African-American Mass Burial Site also serves as a symbol of resilience and community solidarity in the face of tragedy. While the hurricane caused immense loss and devastation, it also brought together members of the African-American community in West Palm Beach and beyond. Many individuals and organizations came together to provide aid and support to those affected by the storm, demonstrating the power of collective action in times of crisis.
In recent years, efforts have been made to continue the work of honoring the victims of the Hurricane of 1928 and preserving their legacy. In 2018, the Florida Public Archaeology Network launched the “Remembering the Dead” project, which seeks to locate and document unmarked graves associated with the hurricane. The project uses ground-penetrating radar and other techniques to identify burial sites and gather information about the individuals buried there.
The African-American Mass Burial Site in West Palm Beach is a powerful and poignant reminder of the tragedy that occurred during the Hurricane of 1928. It is also a testament to the resilience and strength of the African-American community in Florida and the importance of preserving and honoring the history of marginalized communities.