By Josh Williams
LOWER MANHATTAN — The National Parks Service hopes to use the African Burial Ground National Monument, which opened to the public for the first time in lower Manhattan last week, as an educational tool to teach the public about the history of slavery on the island.
“African history is not just for African Americans — it’s for everyone,” said Cherie Butler, a ranger for the National Parks Service, who provides educational tours at the site.
In 1991, the remains of more than 400 African men, women and children were discovered at the site, located at the corner of Duane and Elk streets, when construction began on the new federal building at 290 Broadway.
The original unmarked burial ground stretched over 6.6 acres in lower Manhattan during the 17th and 18th centuries, but the cemetery was eventually covered by landfill and development. Now, the site represents “the single-most important, historic urban archaeological project undertaken in the United States,” according to the monument’s Web site.
Operated by the National Parks Service, the African Burial Ground National Monument and Visitor Center includes a re-creation of a burial ceremony with five life-size figures, a 40-person theater, a research room and other interactive exhibits.
Butler, who is originally from Arkansas, said she sees tremendous importance in documenting the burial ground’s history and educating people about its importance as a historical landmark.
The African Burial Ground National Monument is one of six National Monuments located in Manhattan.
The monument and visitor center, located at 290 Broadway, are open Monday through Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.