Even though the U.S. government refuses to formally recognize
the injustice of 400 years of African enslavement through the
payment of reparations to the descendents of enslaved Africans, the
remnants of slavery linger in the final reburial of 400 enslaved
and freed Africans in New York.
Oct. 4 was a historic and moving day for many African-Americans
as the remains of 400 enslaved and freed Africans were reinterred
in a ceremony that followed a five-city procession to the sacred
African Burial Ground located in Lower Manhattan.
The African Burial Ground was accidentally uncovered in 1991 due
to the construction of a government building in lower Manhattan.
The five acre cemetery, in which up to 20,000 people were buried,
was used by enslaved and freed Africans from 1712 until 1790.
Community pressure from the African-American community prompted
the government to end construction and begin examining the remains
for research purposes. Examination and research of the bones by
Howard University scientists revealed the harrowing conditions of
About half of the 419 sets of remains belong to children who
experienced high rates of mortality, malnutrition, and
Researchers were also able to prove the hardships that the
Africans faced the moment they stepped off the slave ships. They
discovered numerous cases of trauma or injury to the bones, and
broken neck bones due to hard labor.
Furthermore it was discovered that half of the population died
before they became teenagers, while others died within the first
two years of their arrival to America.
The ceremony on Saturday Oct. 4 was a victory for
African-American New Yorkers, who had fought for 12 long and
difficult years to get the African Burial Ground recognized as a
sacred place, and for proper reburial of their ancestors.
This victory should be looked at as a symbol to black Americans
whose ancestral roots were obliterated during slavery. It should
also be regarded as a part of history that is too often forgotten
and only remembered during the month of February.
Additionally this is further evidence of the contributions that
African-Americans made to the building of America. Most of the
slaves and freed blacks helped build a protective wall at what is
now Wall Street. Others even fought in the Revolutionary War.
Furthermore, with the discovery of the burial ground, we can
stop believing that slavery was isolated to the south.
The fact is, slavery was more pervasive then many Americans
believed it to be.
Pre-revolutionary New York enslaved more Africans than any other
colonial settlement except Charleston, S.C. In 1790, 40 percent of
the white households around New York owned slaves.
Although the African-American community in New York won their
battle to secure a “respectful, dignified” reburial for the remains
of more than 400 of their ancestors, by no means should this be
seen as the end.
This is the commencement of another struggle to honor the
children of those nameless bodies, who are still mentally and
economically enslaved in America.
This can only be accomplished through the proper and formal
recognition of the U.S. government through the payment of
Police torture and murder, poverty, miseducation, inadequate
housing, unemployment, welfare, voter discrimination, and high
rates of unjustifiable imprisonment of black men are the legacies
of the children of those reburied on Saturday, Oct. 4.
Slavery has been abolished for 137 years now.
As the U.S. government continues to sweep it under the rug as if
it has never happened, African-Americans should pursue a formal
acknowledgement from the government that their enslaved ancestors
did in fact help build this nation, and that the legacy of slavery
has indeed cemented itself in the mental and economic progress of