Volume 79, Number 39 | March 3 - 9, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Burial ground center opens

A new visitor center for the African Burial Ground tells the story of the thousands buried there more than 200 years ago. The center, which opened last Saturday, also tells the story of the cemetery’s discovery nearly 20 years ago, and the fight to honor the dead.

The $4.4 million center, free to enter, is in the Ted Weiss Federal Building, 290 Broadway. Workers digging the building’s foundation in 1991 unearthed the first of hundreds of graves at the site near Duane and Elk Sts. The discovery sparked an emotional debate about what to do.

The federal government finally decided to agree to preserve a piece of the graveyard. The remains of 419 men, women and children were sent to Howard University to be studied and were reinterred in 2003.

The 2,500-square-foot center is a life-size tableau of a funeral. Exhibits describe the life of African New Yorkers of that era. Some died free, others as slaves, but all came from Africa against their will, said Tara Morrison, the museum’s superintendent. An estimated 15,000 Africans were buried in the 6.6-acre graveyard by the 18th century’s end.

The center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The memorial is open daily. For information, visit www.nps.gov/afbg .

Julie Shapiro

 

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