"African Ameican Burial Ground" New York City Off The Beaten Path Tip by kucha

New York City Off The Beaten Path: 997 reviews and 1,314 photos


As a history buff, I love exploring old cemeteries. There are not many left in Manhattan, but this historic one is worth a visit.

The plot of land at 290 Broadway would look just like a well-manicured suburban lawn except for the massive marble federal building that looms over it and the sign placed inside which reads "African Burial Ground and Five Points Archeological Project."

The African Burial Ground is a 5 or 6-acre cemetery that was used between the late 1600's and 1796 and originally contained between ten thousand and twenty thousand burials. In June of 1991 the discovery happened. Earlier that month construction workers began to dig the foundation for a new $300 million federal government building in lower Manhattan. It all stopped when they dug into a burial ground, where they found wooden coffins and human remains of 427 slaves and freemen! Investogators found that, during the 18th century, a time when African-Americans made up 15 to 20 percent of the population, it is estimated that 20,000 bodies were buried at the ground. The site was located outside of the city limits on undesirable land. As the city grew, the ground was eventually forgotten.

The 427 remains which were finally recovered from the site were sent to Howard University in Washington, D.C. for extensive anthropological studies and re-buried with great care years later. They were wrapped in linen shrouds and methodically positioned in well-built cedar or pine coffins, sometimes with beads or other treasured objects, occasionally with ornamentation on the coffin.

Earlier this year, President Bush eventually declared the site a National Monument and the site has received funding to construct a more elaborate museum and exhibits surrounding the area -- a project which is still ongoing.

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jun 14, 2006
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