Whispering Souls African American Cemetery (v. 5/21)
Located between the city limits of Safety Harbor and Clearwater, FL, the current ¾ acre site that is Whispering Souls African American Cemetery served both communities and, today, is situated in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Whether what survives today in Lot 15 of the Ehle Subdivision encompasses what was the entire cemetery in the past is just one of the many questions about the site’s history that remain to be answered.
Today, there are only 20 visible markers at Whispering Souls…14 have legible markings (3 of those for US veterans). However, some lists show nearly 130 interments and a 2018 ground-penetrating radar survey of most of the site by the University of South Florida & FL Public Archaeology Network shows nearly 100 “anomalies” that indicate likely graves.
The earliest of the legible markers at the site goes back to 1896. While much research remains to be done, best as can be currently determined, in those days the area would’ve belonged to the pioneer McMullen family. In 1902, we have the Coachman family purchasing a parcel of land where the cemetery resides, but they then relinquished the land to the County / State about the time of The Great Depression. In 1944, Alfred Ehle purchased a portion of the land from the State, sub-dividing it into parcels for residential development. In 1951, Mr. Ehle turned-over the ¾ acre Lot 15 with the cemetery to the St. Paul Home Helping Hand Society of Safety Harbor - a local fraternal group. They, in turn, deeded the site to the “Safety Harbor Colored Community” in 1953.
Indications are that informal operation / maintenance of the site by community members continued over the years, and in 2017 a new group of volunteers banded together to look after the cemetery. It was this group that gave the site the name, “Whispering Souls” - which until then had no formal name other than references to “Safety Harbor Colored Cemetery” or “Helping Hands Cemetery” in published obituaries. In 2018, the non-profit Whispering Souls African American Cemetery, Inc. (501[c]) formalized the group’s intention of long-term care for the site.
On June 24, 2021, Whispering Souls African American Cemetery, Inc. - with the generous assistance of attorneys Herbert Donica and Andrew Zodrow - secured clear and legal title / deed to the cemetery site...fixing the hazardous issue of unclear ownership.
Whispering Souls is partnering and working with other projects to identify, restore, and preserve lost / erased cemeteries, and is a member of the African American Cemeteries Alliance of Tampa Bay.
Whispering Souls’ single earliest legible marker reads 1896; the next legible marker date is 1940 and the last shows 1971. Unverified lists show many interments in the early 1920s, but none before. Again, many questions remain and we welcome any information that can help fill-in the blanks remaining in the site’s history…we can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our logo incorporates the Sankofa Bird - a metaphorical symbol used by the Akan people of Ghana. It expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past that is at risk of being lost and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress.