Buried But Not Forgotten


When I went to to open the door to the new African Burial Ground National Monument Visitor Center, a guard outside said sternly, “What are you doing?” Uh, going inside? “OK,” he said. It got more intense inside, when I had to go through the metal detector five times (later I heard staffers say that the machine needed to be recalibrated because the rivets on my Levi’s were setting it off). The security stuff tended to mumble, so I got a bit crabby from having to say “What?” at them every time they told me to remove something—my coat, my shoes, my belt…. Anyway, I was evidently the first person of the day to make it through, so a nice man gave me a commemorative plastic six-inch ruler, which I shall treasure. (The extreme security is because the visitor’s center is inside the Ted Weiss Federal Building.)

One I survived the gauntlet, however, I was impressed with the experience: The installations are very interesting, accessible without being dumbed down for kids (field trips being a likely source of attendees). The visitor’s center gives historical context on how burials were conducted—for instance, the British passed a law that no more than 12 Africans could congregate in one place at a time—as well as in-depth looks at the archeological process and the controversy surrounding whether the burial ground should be preserved. A friendly National Park staffer, Tamika Guishard, explained the layout of the space and answered my various questions. I took several photos (below) to give a sense of the place, but I’m not going to go on and on about what I learned there because you should check it out for yourself—it’s genuinely fascinating, and what’s more, it’s free. Just leave any unnecessary metal objects at home.

The visitor center is at 290 Broadway, between Duane and Reade; the African Burial Ground National Monument itself is just down Reade Street, at Elk. The website says the visitor’s center is open Monday through Friday except federal holidays; when I called yesterday, I was told it’s open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. So call before you go: 212-637-2019.



1 Comment

  1. Shameful, shameful, shameful…but what can you expect from a country that small-poxed the indians into decimation.
    It’s really hard to be an American in these times when so much is being
    unearthed (literally and figuratively),
    If you never had to pay a person a salary and they did all your work for you, and you used them sexually as well, (the fear factor always works),
    small wonder that you got rich and your plantations thrived.

    I visited the African Burial Ground about 9 years ago when they were planning to expand. I saw the picures of the dead (all bones now), and left in tears.