National Park: African Burial Ground, NYC

by Cie McCullough Buschle on April 19, 2012

in Arts and Culture

In 1991 during construction renovations in Lower Manhattan, workers uncovered a site containing the remains of more than 400 Africans buried during the late 17th and 18th centuries. These men, women and children are now immortalized by the African Burial Ground National Monument.

Unearthed (2002) - A bronze sculpture by artist Frank Bender based upon the forensic facial reconstructions of three intact skeletons exhumed at the African Burial Ground.

Bronze sculpture by artist Frank Bender based on forensic facial reconstructions of three intact skeletons exhumed at the African Burial Ground.

Forgotten and built over, historians estimate a total of 15,000-20,000. The discovery has been called “the most important historic urban archeological project in the United States” and has brought about a new way of thinking about early African-American history in New York. It is now thought that almost 25% of New York City workers back in the 18th century were slaves.

The Memorial design is the winning result of a competition, and is built of stone from both Africa and North America. At the north end of the map is a narrow opening called The Door of Return, in contrast to the name given to slave ports on the coast of West Africa – The Door of No Return.

If you go to visit this National Historic Landmark, be aware that it is adjacent to the Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway, and as such will have high security. Within the building is the Visitor’s Center, which includes “Reclaiming Our History”, a permanent exhibit about the significance of the burial site. There you can learn more about the role Africans played in New York’s history.

Aerial view of the African Burial Ground National Monument. The mounds to the right contain the reinterred remains.

Aerial view of the African Burial Ground National Monument. The mounds to the right contain the reinterred remains.

| Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

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