• Mike Fowler

Adam the Slave

If you follow either here or on insta with any frequency, you'll notice that I post quite a bit about Oaklawn Cemetery here in Tampa. Although I've visited there many times through the years, there's always still something new to share.


When Oaklawn was created in 1850, it was designated as a final resting place for Tampa's "White and Slave, Rich and Poor". Our pioneer families are buried here along with many others who contributed to the regions history.


Some areas of land that appear barren of markers are actually areas where numerous burials have occurred. A mass grave for multiple outbreaks of yellow fever takes up a significant chunk. Another area marks the location of the slave population.


It's unknown exactly how many are buried here but one marker was put in place to memorialize Adam who was a local slave, On September 8, 1859 the body of Luke Moore was discovered in his home about four miles east of Tampa. Adam, who was owned by J.C. Green had loaned him out to Moore for labor. Circumstantial evidence pointed to Adam as the one who had hatcheted Moore to death.


Ossian B. Hart

Adam was brought to trial and proclaimed his innocence throughout the four day proceedings. His lawyer, Ossian B. Hart, believed his story and fiercely defended him, giving an eloquent and heart wrenching appeal to the jury. Despite all his efforts, Adam was sentenced to be hanged. Hart, who was so convinced of his clients innocence filed for an immediate and expedited appeal. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that enough evidence existed to throw out the previous trial and conduct a new one.


Not happy with the sudden turn of events, on December 16, 1859, a vigilante mob seized Adam and lynched him. He was left hanging for all to see and was eventually cut down and buried in Oaklawn.


The whole event played out similarly to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" even though that novel came along over a century later. It is hard not to see the comparisons between Ossian B. Hart and Atticus Finch. Theres no record of Harper Lee ever hearing of Adam's story so I'm sure it's all just an eerie coincidence.


Hart went on to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Florida and was later elected to be the states 10th governor. Adam is laid to rest in the slave section of Oaklawn with numerous others who were bound by the towns chains.



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