Season 1, Episode 4: Searching for Sankofa – New York’s African Burial Ground

In 1991, construction workers broke ground on a new federal government office building at 290 Broadway in New York City. When they opened up the earth before them, they got more than they had bargained for. In the coming months,  archaeologists descended upon the site. What they unearthed was a six-acre burial ground, historically known as the Negro Burial Ground, with some 15,000 intact skeletal remains of enslaved and free Africans.

Released August 31, 2021

Listen to Season 1, Episode 4 on

On this episode:

  • The early history of the Dutch in Manhattan
  • The importance of African slavery in the building of early New Amsterdam
  • African legal freedoms in New Amsterdam
  • The emergence of the ‘Negro Burial Ground’
  • The Anglicization of New York in the late 17th century
  • Archaeological surveys beginning in 1991
  • Forensic analysis of remains found at the site
  • What we can learn about slavery in New York and African deathways in early America

Recommended Reading:

African Burial Ground National Monument NPS site

Andrea E. Frohne, The African Burial Ground in New York City: Memory, Spirituality, and Space (Syracuse University Press, 2015).

Gabrielle Holterman, “Renewed push to expand Lower Manhattan’s African Burial Ground and preserve history,” AMNY (April 1, 2021).

Mark E. Mack and L. Michael Blakey, “The New York African Burial Ground Project: Past Biases, Current Dilemmas, and Future Research Opportunities,” Historical Archaeology 38 (2004): 10-17.

Erik R. Seeman, Death in the New World: Cross-Cultural Encounters, 1492-1800 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

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