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1712Sacred Land

African American Burial Grounds

Map of city plan for New York

Plan of the City of New York, 1755

Aerial photograph of African Burial Ground Monument

Aerial View of African Burial Ground National Monument

Aerial photograph of African Burial Ground Monument

Aerial View of African Burial Ground National Monument

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.

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Photograph of Geoffrey Canada engaging with students

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Black women in masks at a protest

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While serving the nation, African Americans continued the fight for their own freedom and justice.

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Law

African Americans continue the fight for social justice and equal treatment under the law.

People waiting in line to vote

Education

African Americans established schools for their communities and have taken innovative approaches to education while challenging segregation and discrimination.

Photograph of Geoffrey Canada engaging with students

Health

Structural racism and racist beliefs about African Americans shape access to care and health outcomes.

Black women in masks at a protest

Military

While serving the nation, African Americans continued the fight for their own freedom and justice.

General Lloyd J. Austin III, Commander, United States Central Command and former Commanding General, United States Forces – Iraq