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2003-10-06

Remains of 419 Enslaved Africans Re-Buried at the African Burial Ground in New York City

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The skeletons of hundreds of enslaved Africans discovered 12 years ago during construction of a building in New York City were reinterred at the African Burial Ground in a solemn ceremony on Friday.

The skeletons of hundreds of enslaved African were returned to New York City for solemn re-burial on Friday. The bones were discovered 12 years ago during construction of a building in New York City and were removed for research.

The construction site turned out to be a five-acre cemetery that had been closed in 1794 and had been long forgotten.

Horse-drawn hearse carried the caskets up Broadway’s traditional Canyon of Heroes parade route as thousands of New Yorkers marched to the final resting place in lower Manhattan. The 419 colonial-era slaves were reinterred at the African Burial Ground just blocks from the waterfront where they were sold more than 200 years ago.

Extensive study at Washington’s Howard University of the remains revealed that a large percentage of the slaves had suffered violent head wounds. Forensic evidence also suggested that many had been routinely forced to carry loads of between 40 and 80 kilograms.

Poet Maya Angelou was among the celebrities speaking to a cheering crowd before the caskets were lowered into the ground. She said "You may bury me in the bottom of Manhattan. I will rise. My people will get me. I will rise out of the huts of history’s shame."

  • Reverend Herbert Daughtry, one of three clerics who delivered prayers at the Friday ceremony at the reburial of the remains.
  • Charles Barron, New York City Councilmember from 42nd Council District Committee of Descendants of the African Ancestral Burial Ground.

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