When excavating a federal office building in New York City in 1991, construction workers came upon a massive cemetery forgotten since it closed in 1794. Archaeologists eventually found the remains of 419 bodies from a time when Africans were not allowed to be buried inside the walls of the Dutch city of New Amsterdam. There are believed to be about 15,000 people buried in the original six-acre cemetery.
Museum, film, Circle of the Diaspora, Ancestral Libation Chamber
After passing through security, check out the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center that opened in 2010. It has interactive exhibits about the thousands of captive and freed Africans that lived in the city in the eighteenth century. Outside, a memorial made of Verde Fontaine green granite from Africa was completed in 2007 with the 24-foot high Ancestral Libation Chamber symbolizing the depth at which the bodies were discovered. Nearby the 419 bodies were ceremonially reinterred in 2003. Call ahead to schedule your place on an NPS ranger-led tour of the site.
The symbolic “Door of Return” is part of the outdoor memorial, which was entirely covered by scaffolding to protect it from a construction project during our visit in 2019.
Take public transportation!
Check out our blog post on Gateway National Recreation Area for information on camping in the New York City area.
Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site (New York)
Stonewall National Monument (New York)
Boston African American National Historic Site (Massachusetts)
Explore More – What does the Sankofa (a West African heart-shaped symbol) mean?