African Burial Ground Closing This Month for Repairs

By Julie Shapiro on July 5, 2012 11:05am 

A National Park Service ranger describes the history of the African Burial Ground National Monument during a tour.
A National Park Service ranger describes the history of the African Burial Ground National Monument during a tour.
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Facebook/African Burial Ground National Monument

LOWER MANHATTAN — The African Burial Ground, a quiet memorial that marks the site where thousands of slaves were buried in the 1700s, will close in the coming weeks for at least two months of repairs.

The National Park Service plans to fix drainage issues, install new lighting and update the signs in the small memorial at Duane and Elk streets, which will close on July 18, a spokeswoman said.

The entire site — which includes an open grassy area and a circular black stone monument that descends into the ground — will be closed during the work, which will last through the end of the summer, the National Park Service spokeswoman said.

The construction will not disturb the estimated 15,000 skeletons of free and enslaved Africans whose remains lie beneath the surface, she noted.

Construction workers discovered the long-forgotten 300-year-old cemetery in 1991 while digging the foundation for the new Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway.

The find sparked an emotional debate about what to do with the thousands of skeletons of men, women and children, many of whose bones showed signs of brutal treatment.

The federal government ultimately decided to reinter the remains at the site and to build a public memorial, which opened in 2007.

The inscription on the gleaming black stone 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 not forgotten."

The burial ground was designated a national historic landmark in 1993 and a national monument in 2006.

The African Burial Ground's visitor center, which opened in 2010 at 290 Broadway, will remain open during construction on the outdoor memorial. The visitor center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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