From about the 1690s until 1794, both free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6-acre burial ground in Lower Manhattan, outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, later known as New York. 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.
Through successful efforts led by the African descendant community, construction was halted at the federal building site and plans were altered to allow for a memorial space outside. The African Burial Ground was preserved as a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior, was later designated a National Monument by a presidential proclamation in 2006, and was made a part of the National Park System.
The remains of 419 African men, women, and children were unearthed by archaeologists and transferred to Howard University in Washington, D.C. for study. In 2003, the remains were placed in mahogany coffins and reburied back within the national monument near where they were rediscovered. The site is marked by a memorial that rises behind some of the mounds marking the reinterment.
How, when, and why did enslaved and free Africans use the African Burial Ground during the 17th and 18th centuries? The interactive visitor's center, specially commissioned artwork, and outdoor memorial offer an in-depth understanding, while a burial recreation enables visitors to appreciate the sacredness of the site.
Explore the African Burial Grounds outdoor monument Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm from April-October. The visitors center and indoor exhibitions are open year round Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm except on New Years, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.
Cover photo from Wikimedia Commons by Eric K. Washington - Own work
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.