August 27, 2002

No Rest For the Ancestors

Still in lazy/busy mode. So instead of my usual half-assed "content," I'll continue to point to posts and stories of interest from others.

[ From George Kelly of ] :

Washington Post: No Rest for African Burial Ground

Two centuries ago, mapmakers noted a Negro burial ground in lower Manhattan, near the site of today's City Hall. Yet federal officials were surprised in 1991 when, at that precise spot, construction workers excavating for a proposed federal building began unearthing intact burials -- skeletal remains, grave goods and remnants of coffins. The site was part of a five-acre 18th-century cemetery that historians believe held the remains of as many as 20,000 people.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, an independent federal agency, immediately advised the General Services Administration to develop a plan to preserve the site's historic value. But GSA officials, worried about costly delays, initially declined to modify the construction schedule. Instead, the GSA accelerated the excavation and in a year's time had unearthed more than 400 skeletal remains.

In the meantime, New York's Black community accused the government of desecrating sacred ground and mishandling the remains, some of which were wrapped in newspaper. A scientist gingerly handling one burial would later discover that the words "New York Post" had transferred onto a skull.

Outraged by the long ass delay? Contact Dr. Sherrill D. Wilson, Director of The office of Public Education and Interpretation of the African Burial Ground Project at 212-337-2001 or 212-337-1447 fax. The GSA funds this office.

New York City has a forgotten African Burial Ground in Queens: The Bunn Cemetry. A 19th-Century burial place, old records indicate this plot was used as an African-American burial ground, most prominently for the Bunn family. Pan-Africanists and other "radicals" want the park on top of the burial ground removed, a plaque installed acknowledging the historic site and a promise that it won't be desecrated again in the future.

I hope they don't hold their collective breath.

Posted by ronn at August 27, 2002 09:36 AM