Grave robbers targeting historic cemetery in Miami

Resting place of prominent Miami African-Americans has fallen into disrepair

MIAMI – One of the oldest cemeteries in Miami -- and resting place for some of the most prominent African-Americans in the city's history -- has been the target for a recent rash of vandals and grave robbers.

The Rev. John Culmer, a civil rights activist, and James E. Scott, who served as the first administrator of Miami's first public housing project, are among the notable people buried at the Evergreen Memorial Park, which has fallen into disrepair in recent years.

Arthur Kennedy has family members buried at the cemetery. He grew up in the neighborhood, and he's been visiting Evergreen and doing some caretaking his whole life.

Kennedy showed Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg around the grounds this week. Kennedy pointed out how one tomb -- placed aboveground because of the water table -- had recently been smashed open.

Kennedy said the thieves use the bones in Voodoo ceremonies or sell them on the black market. Chicken feathers, a sign of animal sacrifice, were seen among the graves on a recent visit.

"When they take the bodies out, it's something crazy now -- now they're coming with blue gloves," Kennedy said.

Although the family that owns the Miami Times newspaper bought Evergreen out of foreclosure, there is little funding for upkeep or security.

Kennedy has been searching for his great-grandmother's grave. He does what he can when he can. He's sickened to see fresh damage and bones stolen.

"This is historic ground," Kennedy said. "I mean, I don't see no way, funding or whatever it may be, it has to be saved. It shouldn't be like this."

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."