African American Burial Ground Center Opens in Manhattan

Last Thursday’s New York Times included an interesting article by Edward Rothstein about a new African American Burial Ground Center which opened in Lower Manhattan on Saturday.

The story of the Center begins back in 1991 when human remains were discovered  during construction of the Ted Weiss Federal Building.  Researchers soon identified the site with a “Negros Burial Ground,” which appears on an 18th century map of New York City.  Over 400 bodies were eventually disinterred by archaeologists, and these are just a fraction of the estimated 10-20,000 believed to have been buried here before the cemetery was closed in the 1790s.  Many, if not virtually all of them, were African slaves.

While, as Rothstein points out, some of the Center’s exhibits are controversial, they nonetheless cast a revealing light upon the brutality of African slavery in America during the 17th and 18th centuries.  Wear marks on some of the bones unearthed, for example, are believed to show evidence of the harsh, repetitive tasks forced upon slave laborers.       

Greensboro Public Library has plenty of books on African slavery, if you’d like to do some research yourself.  Recent titles include:  A Shadow on the Household:  One Enslaved Family’s Incredible Struggle for Freedom by Bryan Prince; Liberty or Death:  The Surprising Story of Runaway Slaves Who Sided with the British During the American Revolution by Margaret Whitman Blair; Slavery’s Constitution:  From Revolution to Ratification by David Waldstreicher; Douglass and Lincoln:  How a Revolutionary Black Leader and a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery and Save the Union by Paul Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick; Ten Hills Farm:  The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North by C.S. Manegold; The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom by Steven Hahn; Lincoln on Race & Slavery, edited and introduced by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. , coedited by Donald Yacovone; Deliver Us from Evil:  The Slavery Question in the Old South by Lacy K. Ford; An American Trilogy:  Death, Slavery, and Dominion on the banks of the Cape Fear River by Steven M. Wise; The Odyssey of an African Slave by Sitiki, edited by Patricia C. Griffin; “What Shall We Do with the Negro?”:  Lincoln, White Racism, and Civil War America by Paul D. Escott; Dreams of Africa in Alabama:  The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America by Sylviane A. Diouf; and Passages to Freedom: the Underground Railroad in History and Memory, edited by David W. Blight.

We also have one juvenile work specifically on New York’s slave burial ground called Breaking Ground, Breaking Silence:  The Story of New York’s African Burial Ground by Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan.

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