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The African Burial Ground in the New York Area Essay

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Updated: Jan 28th, 2021

What were the dates in which the African Burial Ground (NPS) was in active use?

The African Burial Ground (ABG) was in use in the period beginning from 1690 to about 1794. The ABG was set aside for the sole purpose of providing a final resting place for Africans, both free and enslaved. The ABG site was discovered in 1991 when a construction project was ongoing.

Why was the burial ground located at this site?

The ABG came to be located at its current site due to a number of factors. First, all city residents in the New York area during the 1600s were buried at a public cemetery. The unrestricted cemetery was free for all people, including confined individuals, but payment was accrued by all those who buried their dead in this site. However, the Trinity Church later took control of the burial site and proceeded to prohibit the burial of people of African descent in this area. Following this ban, a new cemetery that was exclusively used for both enslaved and free African Americans was sought. The new burial location was in the outskirts of the city of New York next to the Collect Pond. After it was commissioned, the area was known as ‘Negro’s Burial Ground.’ The area was approximately six acres in size, and it was located in a valley. In addition, the land that was used for the burial site was privately owned. Later on, the burial site was turned into a landfill with the anticipation of commercial development.

What does this site tell us about slavery in colonial America?

The ABG site contains a lot of history concerning the institution of slavery during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The site was considered holy by the Africans who buried their ancestors there. The excavators at ABG discovered the remains of about four hundred African Americans. This arrangement shows that the early Africans took time to prepare for the burials of their loved ones. In addition, this burial arrangement eliminates the possibility of mass burials during the early days of slavery. The site also reveals a high number of children who were buried during this period. About fifty percent of the studied persons in the ABG were kids who were below the age of maturity. Consequently, it is apparent that African families were faced with a high infant mortality rate as a result of several known and unknown factors.

The ABG site is considered to be one of the largest burial sites for enslaved people in the United States. Therefore, it is apparent that African Americans played a major role in the history of New York. Previously, slavery was thought to be a preserve of the American south. However, the discovery of the massive burial site in Manhattan is an indicator that slavery was thriving in New York. Alongside the buried bodies, a large collection of artifacts was discovered during the excavation. Most of these artifacts are very important in helping to unearth the origins of the very first African Americans in New York. For instance, in most instances, African Americans maintained traditional African burial rights when burying their kinsmen. Furthermore, the differences in culture between the native African tribes and those who settled in America can be accessed easily. Other historians and scholars have been able to identify instances of revolt in the history of slavery through the ABG excavation.

When was the burial ground discovered? What had occurred at the site from the time the burial ground was no longer in use to the time when it was rediscovered?

The ABG was discovered in 1991, and it remains one of the most recent monumental discoveries in the United States. The site discovery occurred during ground preparations for the construction of a federal building complex. The discovery of ABG was announced by the General Services Administration despite the fact that a prior Environmental Impact Assessment on the area had indicated that no human remains would be found in the area. Before the discovery was made, the ABG area had undergone years of urban development, including serving as an eight-meter landfill. The landfill was the most important urban development, although, in 1846, a department store was built in the area.

What was the one interesting piece of information you learned at the African Burial Ground (NPS) site and explain why you found that information interesting?

One of the most interesting pieces of information that I learned through my visit to the ABG is how important jewelry was to the early Africans. The ABG featured a great number of exhibitions that included jewelry that was discovered during the excavation. For instance, there were several pendants, cufflinks, and beads on display. Some of those people who were buried in the site were slaves who wore their jewelry even in the most distressing situations. Interestingly, the culture of wearing jewelry for aesthetic and cultural reasons among people of African origin has survived to this date. Nevertheless, it is apparent that jewelry was an integral part of the attire of early African Americans.

Discuss the importance of visiting sites like the African Burial Ground (NPS) and how they can supplement and/or enhance classroom study of American history.

The chance to visit the ABG was unlike any classroom experience that I have had. Visiting places like ABG presents learners with a ‘three-dimensional’ learning experience. For instance, it was easy to evoke the emotions of the early slaves when at the ABG. In addition, visiting a site like the ABG urges learners to ask themselves critical questions, and this improves their learning experience. The classroom experience relies on supplied information through limited senses, but outdoor learning engages all learning-senses in an individual.

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IvyPanda. (2021, January 28). The African Burial Ground in the New York Area. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-african-burial-ground-in-the-new-york-area/

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1. IvyPanda. "The African Burial Ground in the New York Area." January 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-african-burial-ground-in-the-new-york-area/.


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IvyPanda. "The African Burial Ground in the New York Area." January 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-african-burial-ground-in-the-new-york-area/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The African Burial Ground in the New York Area." January 28, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-african-burial-ground-in-the-new-york-area/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The African Burial Ground in the New York Area'. 28 January.

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