FEATURED ARTICLE

A Tribute to our ancestors who built New York…

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

NEW YORK’S SLAVE BURIAL SITE

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

**********************************************************************

The Symbol above is one of many tribal emblems that represent West African Wisdom: Adinkra Symbols & Meanings: SANKOFA

“Return and get it”

A symbol of importance of learning from the past

***********************************************************************

A burial ground for African slaves, which had been forgotten for almost two centuries, was opened to the public in New York, October 5th 2007. Those who attended a dedication ceremony for the monument site were New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Maya Angelou. The late 17th Century burial site was gradually built over as New York expanded, but was rediscovered during an excavation in 1991. Some 400 remains, many of children, were found during excavations. Half of the remains found at the burial site were of children under the age of 12. The entire project cost more than $50 million (£24 million) to complete. The burial site in Manhattan was rediscovered during excavations for a federal building.

FORGOTTEN SACRIFICE

A 25 feet (7.6 metre) granite monument marks the site. It was designed by Rodney Leon and is made out of stone from South Africa and from North America to symbolise the two worlds coming together. The entry to the monument is called ‘The Door of Return’ – a nod to the name given to the departure points from which slaves were shipped from Africa to North America. The tragedy is that for so many years, in fact centuries, people passing by this site did not know about the sacrifices the slaves had made. This monument is an opportunity to right some of the wrongs of the past.

ENSLAVED AFRICANS HELPED CREATE THE CITY OF

NEW YORK

They worked in the docks and as labourers building the fortification known as Wall Street, which protected the city against attack from Native Americans. The excavations had revealed one of the most uncomfortable and tragic truths in New York City’s history. For two centuries, slavery was widespread in New York.

THE AFRICAN FOUNDATIONS OF NEW YORK

***************************************************************

The remains of 20,000 Africans are said to be buried under New York

***************************************************************

The remains of 20,000 African men, women and children have lain beneath the busy streets of New York for 300 years, waiting to tell their stories on the extent of slavery in the city. In March 1992, leading African-American archaeologist Michael Blakey arrived at the burial ground in downtown Manhattan. He had read about these people documented as chattel and was now going to learn about these Africans in New York as human beings.

A haunting sight greeted him. Being winter, work was taking place under a translucent plastic tent. He had never seen an excavation like that before as there were mini excavators working and kerosene heaters were going. By the time he got there, about a dozen burials were in the process of being exposed. He could see very clearly by their positions, that they were meant to be put at peace when they were buried. Many had their arms crossed. One female skeleton had tiny bones by her side, suggesting a woman cradling a new born child.

SIGN OF SLAVERY

They had devastating secrets to share, information that would reveal the extent of slavery in New York. A skull and thorax of an individual were found with filed or culturally modified teeth – and that stunned everyone because that was very rare. There are only about nine skeletons in the whole of the Americas that have been discovered with filed teeth. In this African burial ground they found at least 27 individuals with filed teeth. This suggested these people had come to New York directly from Africa before importation was banned in 1808 and American slaveholders started “breeding” slaves on the plantations in the South. These kinds of irreversible identifiers put people at risk who might have wanted to escape. Runaway adverts in newspapers seeking to re-capture the many escaped enslaved Africans often mentioned dental modification, so no one would choose to have that kind of marker.

WORKED TO DEATH

These enslaved Africans helped create the city of New York. They worked as stevedores in the docks and as labourers building the fortification known as Wall Street, which protected the city against attack from Native Americans. Evidence from the burial site revealed, for the first time, the enormous human cost of such work. Half of the remains were of children under the age of 12. Women were usually dead by 40. It seems that it was cost effective for slave traders to work people to death and then simply to replace them, so they sought to get Africans who were as young as possible, but ready to work.

FROM ROYALTY TO SLAVERY?

The woman designated “Burial 340” was a very intriguing person. She was in her 40s – and for the burial ground population that made her kind of old. Around her waist the woman wore a belt of over 100 beads and cowrie shells. In some parts of Africa in the 1700s, it’s illegal for people who are not members of royal families to own even one of these beads – and she had over 100 buried with her. Such treasures are known to belong to Akan-speaking people. The questions are:

Had this woman been born into royalty in Ghana and died a slave in New York City?

And who chose to bury her with the waist belt of beads?

They are very valuable items. It implies that whoever buried her could have chosen to sell those items to feed themselves – but they made the choice to bury them with her. Perhaps it was a tradition, a rite, or an act of defiance against those who had enslaved a woman of noble birth.

The skeletons of 18th Century slaves have spoken to those living free today to remind us that New York – one of the world’s great immigrant cities – destroyed as well as created destinies.

So Kings and Queens of Jah Kingdom. Whenever you get the chance to visit New York City, make a date in your calendar to check out New York’s AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND and pay tribute to our ancestors.

‘TIL JUNE 2012 – EVERYTING – BLESS

**********************************************************************

FURTHER READING AND VIEWING

***********************************************************************

  • Read more about NEW YORK’S SLAVE BURIAL SITE; here…
  • AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND DOCUMENTARY; here…
  • AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND – A BRIEF HISTORY; here…
  • AFRICA BURIAL GROUND MONUMENT NEW YORK 23 JUNE 2009; here…
  • AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND TOUR SEPTEMBER 22 2009; here…
  • NYC AFRICAN BURIAL GROUND; here…

**************************************************************************************************

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: