The African Burial Ground has been a part of New York City since its earliest days. In its hundreds of years of existence, it has witnessed New York City change dramatically. When the land first came into use as an African Burial Ground, the area surrounding it was not yet New York City. It was a wilderness on the outskirts of town that bordered a beautiful lake known as the Collect Pond. Since that time, the neighborhood surrounding the sacred area has had many names; The Commons, The Five Points, Little Africa, TriBeCa, Civic Center, and the Lower West Side are just a few.
The history of African-American life in this neighborhood has been extraordinarily rich. It is home to America's first Black newspaper, Freedom's Journal; the first A.M.E. Zion Church, Mother Zion, and numerous underground railroad sites, including Frederick Douglass' first free address. Lost to history due to landfill and development, the grounds were rediscovered in 1991 as a result of the planned construction of a Federal office building.
The discovery highlighted the forgotten history of African slaves in colonial and federal New York City, who were integral to the city's development. By the American Revolutionary War, they constituted nearly a quarter of the population in the city. New York had the second-largest number of slaves in the nation after Charleston, South Carolina. Scholars and African-American civic activists joined together to publicize the importance of the site and lobby for its preservation. The site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and a National Monument in 2006.
Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of our national parks. National Parks in New York City? Yes! There are 11 parks with a total of 23 different sites you can visit in all five boroughs and parts of New Jersey.