Archeologists have uncovered the graves of around 100 boys at a Florida reform school known for widespread abuses.
Researchers at the University of South Florida found at least 50 grave sites, 19 more than were previously unknown, on the grounds of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in the Florida panhandle, reports AP.
The new findings suggest that more boys died there amid abuse and neglect than had been previously known. The Dozier school, also known as the Florida State Reform School, closed in June 2011 after state investigators and the US. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division confirmed decades of abuse.
Lawsuits against the school going back decades alleged widespread abuses including forced labor, rape and even murder.
WMBB-TV reports that previous records indicated that 81 deaths were reported at the school, yet researchers at USF found evidence of 98 deaths of boys aged 6 to 18, which occurred between 1914 and 1973. Two adult staff members were also among the dead.
"We found nearly twice as many burials as were thought to exist," Erin Kimmerle, a lead researcher with the USF team, told WMBB, "but many of them had been lost in the woods under brush and trees."
The Miami Herald reports that the largest grave site on the campus is next to a garbage dump on what used to be called the school's "colored" section.
"No understanding of the Florida State Reform School over the course of its history can be understood without consideration of the impact and implications of segregation, particularly those relating to criminal justice," Kimmerle told WMBB. "The majority of boys committed to the school and that died there were African American."
The grave site has 31 graves marked with PVC pipe crosses but the Heard reports that the markers don't correspond with actual graves and it's likely that another 20 boys were buried there.
Kimmerle said they also uncovered discrepancies in records of the cause and manner of death reported for several of the boys. Twenty of the boys died within three months of being sent to the school.
According to NBC News, writer Roger Dean Kiser, who was incarcerated there in the 1950s as a child, called the school a "concentration camp for little boys," and wrote about the horror he experienced in a book, "The White House Boys — An American Tragedy".
Kiser wrote that "a devil was hiding behind every tree, every building and even behind every blade of manicured grass."
Researchers from USF will return to the campus in January to examine the campus' south parcel, which housed white children, the Herald reports. Researchers believe they will find additional graves there because the school remained segregated for much of its existence.