Historic African burial grounds exist throughout the nation. Many are lost to history and have been covered by later development. But many have been rediscovered in recent years. The discovery of African burial grounds, beginning in the later part of the 20th century, provides opportunities for ancestral reconnection, national understanding, and historical reconciliation.
The African Burial Ground in New York was uncovered in 1991 when commercial construction began at its location. The burial ground was established around 1712 when people of African descent were forced to find a burial site away from Trinity Church. Burials occurred on the grounds during the 17th and 18th centuries. The sacred site served not only as a resting place for the deceased but also as a site of memory and a safe gathering space for the living to practice cultural customs. Yet even in death, Black people were not free. In 1788 Black New Yorkers protested the frequent robbing of bodies from the burial ground by Columbia College medical students and faculty.
In 1992, the remains of 419 of the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 interred were recovered from the site. After construction was halted, a team of scholars from Howard University conducted important research on the human remains and burial materials. The findings provide greater insight into the lives of the early Black residents of New York. The remains were reinterred, and the site was designated a memorial dedicated to the lives of people of African descent in the state.