This weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a trip that traveled from Washington D.C. to New York City and back all within 24 hours. Why? To experience the African American Burial Ground National Monument and all of the stories and emotions that came a long with it. Who would have figured that to this very moment, thinking about it still gets me teary eyed, and still makes my heart play hopscotch in my body.
The African American Burial ground in Lower Manhattan, New York, conserves a site where more than 400 African American slaves were buried during the 17th and 18th century by their loved ones. Not only was it a profound finding, but also it is known to be one of the largest colonial-era cemeteries for Africans, both enslaved and free. To this day, it is often called the most important historic urban archeological projects in the United States.
The discovery was important because it discussed the forgotten history of Africans living in what is now New York City, however, not everyone felt that way. Scholars and African American civic activists joined to publicize its importance by picketing, protesting, and lobbying for its preservation. Finally, in 1993 the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark and in 2006 a National Monument.
The actual piece of art that marks the Monument is the 25-foot granite “Circle of Diaspora” designed by Rodney Leon. It is built of stone from South African and North
America to symbolize the two worlds coming together. It has an almost finished circle leading to a towering pyramid, as it’s basic shape. On the pyramid reads: For all those who were lost, for all those who were stolen, for all those who were left behind, for all those who were never forgotten.
The monument is also accompanied by a museum depicting the struggle of the enslaved Africans in New York City during that time. The entire museum is based off the story of one girl and her family. I’m not quite sure if the girl really existed in real life but the museum contains pictures, quotes, documents, and in one large room a wax-figure reenactment of the burial of the girls’ father.
I cannot even begin to describe how the entire experience made me feel. From the beginning of the day when we walked onto the ground site and the tour guide began to tell the story of how the Africans buried their loved ones, my heart melted. It was extremely moving and saddening to picture the women and children crowded around a casket in what is now New York City. It made me feel like for years, people were walking all over them, building all over them, and even to this