When a hurricane struck the Florida coast on Sept, 16, 1928, it washed away a flimsy dike on Lake Okeechobee. The storm would kill at least 2,500 people in Florida and the United States, perhaps as many as 3,000, making it the greatest storm in terms of deaths in U.S. history. behind only the 1900 Galveston hurricane. Thousands more died in the Caribbean. The storm prompted construction of the giant dike that now surrounds the massive lake.
About 60 White victims were buried in a mass grave in the prestigious Woodlawn Cemetery. Segregation laws at the time prevented the burial of Black residents in that cemetery. Nearly 700 people of color were dumped in a mass grave at a pauper’s graveyard at the corner of Tamarind Avenue and 25th Street.
While the mass grave at Woodlawn was marked with a memorial, the Tamarind Avenue site was largely forgotten until 1991, when a Nigerian religious service was held at the location. The site had passed through various owners over the years and was used as a garbage dump, slaughterhouse, and sewage treatment works.
The City of West Palm Beach purchased the land in 2000, and in 2003, a state historical marker was put in place by the city for the 75th anniversary of the storm.