The forgotten Black Tampa community

Dobyville became one of the most extensive African American neighborhoods in Tampa during the years of segregation. This community will forever be an inspiration to African American history in the Tampa Bay.

Dobyville was one of the first African American communities located in the Tampa Bay in the 1900’s. Segregation was present during the birth of this community and Dobyville provided a haven for African Americans to call home after a long day’s work. Most of the residents living there worked as cooks, servants, or nannies for white families living in Hyde Park. Often times, this community would also be referred as “West Hyde Park”. One man that was significant to Dobyville was Robert Cornellus Doby. This small community was named after Mr. Doby because he purchased a great deal of land in the area, and he also provided donations for the community’s school and Zion Cemetery. Mr. Doby was a very well-known resident in Hyde Park by not only the African American community, but by the white community as well. He was a businessman in many different areas including real estate, ice dealing and fish dealing. Zion Cemetery was purchased by Mr. Doby in 1901 for $100 would leave a major impact on African American history in the Tampa Bay. The cemetery was purchased for the use of the Dobyville community where residents could be buried close to their families and friends. In many cases, African Americans during this time did not have access to their own cemetery and the purchase of land by Mr. Doby gave the community something of their own. Residents would now be able to peacefully put their families and friends down to rest in the acts of their own cultural traditions. Although the cemetery would be forgotten, just like Dobyville, decades later the Zion Cemetery would be rediscovered and would open a new chapter of Tampa’s African American history. This is an exciting find for not only the memory of previous Dobyville residents, but for those who connect their heritage back to Tampa’s African American history. Over the years, Dobyville would become smaller due to the rise of construction zones and growth happening in Tampa Bay. In the 1970’s much of what was left of Dobyville such as residential houses and one of the last remaining schools, was torn down to make way for the Lee Roy Selmon Express Way. Surprisingly, this often happens to African American communities where their history is erased for the sake of what the future has in store. Much of the history that played such a significant role in the expansion of Tampa’s growth has been demolished and forgotten by either new zoning designations, railroads, and expressways.

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