New York’s African Burial Ground

African Burial Ground memorial, NYC

African Burial Ground’s outdoor memorial, in tribute to Africans and their descendants.

New York City’s African Burial Ground is a hallowed place in Lower Manhattan.  A national monument, it is the historic final resting place of approximately 15,000 African New Yorkers, both free and enslaved.

History of the African Burial Ground

African Burial Ground, NYC

African Burial Ground in the 18th century

Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, the African Burial Ground was the most significant site for African New Yorkers. Located just outside the confines of the city, it was where they could bury their loved ones and maintain their culture.

Called the “Negroes Burial Ground,” the cemetery was closed in 1794 to make way for development. It was soon covered with landfill—and eventually concrete and buildings.

After being lost to history, the African Burial Ground was rediscovered in 1991 during construction of a Federal office building in Lower Manhattan.

No fewer than 419 sets of human remains were unearthed from the 6.6-acre cemetery. The remains were taken to Howard University for scientific research, which provided insight into the lives of early African New Yorkers, and were re-interred at the burial site on October 4, 2003.  The African Burial Ground was designated a national monument in 2006—and is the only U.S. national monument that memorializes Africans and African descendants.

Visit the African Burial Ground

The African Burial Ground is located at 290 Broadway, between Reade and Duane Streets.

Subway: R to City Hall, 4,5,6 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, J to Chambers Street, or 2,3 to Park Place.

The monument is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm, and there is no admission charge.

To access the Visitor Center, all visitors must pass through airport-style security.  Food, beverages, and gum are not allowed inside the visitor center.

African Burial Ground, NYC

African funeral tableau in the Visitors Center. Photo courtesy of nps.org

Part of the National Park Service, the grounds feature an outdoor memorial paying tribute to past, present and future generations of Africans and African descendants. The memorial is closed during winter months.

The Visitor Center and exhibition space includes exhibits on the history of the cemetery, African contributions to early New York City, the site’s discovery and construction, and commissioned artwork.

There is also a small theater, bookstore, and resource library, which is available by appointment.

Park Rangers lead educational programs at the monument. From June to September, they also lead walking tours of Lower Manhattan focused on the history of enslaved and free Africans in early New York.

You can download audio narration and a map of the tour for independent exploration.

The National Park Service website offers informative free audio Digital Gallery Talks.

Every October 4th, the African Burial Ground hosts a day of remembrance and celebration. The site also presents Kwanzaa programs and events every December.

African Burial Ground

The burial ground’s moving outdoor memorial. Photo courtesy of nps.org

Have you visited the African Burial Ground? Share your experience in the comments below!

, , , , , , ,