Culture in the city: The African Burial Ground

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Yesterday, some friends and I took advantage of “Night at the Museums”, an evening of free entry to 13 downtown museums as part of the River to River festival. We decided to check out the African Burial Ground National Monument at 290 Broadway since we’d never heard of it before, and, why not? It turned out to be a very interesting and sobering glimpse into part of NYC history that doesn’t get much attention at other museums in the city.

The African Burial Ground National Monument sits at a site where thousands of Africans were buried during the 17th and 18th centuries The sacred site was completely forgotten until 1991 when construction on a Federal building unearthed hundreds of wooden coffins and human remains. An estimated 15,000 men, women and children, many of whom were slaves, were buried at what is now 290 Broadway. While some of the remains were removed and identified, many of them are still buried there today.

It’s hard to believe that I used to live in the Financial District and no idea this burial ground existed. It is the largest colonial-era cemetery for enslaved African people, and the memorial stands today in dedication to the Africans who lived and died in colonial New York. It’s certainly worth visiting and entry is always free, though donations are accepted. To learn more, visit the site here.

If you’re interested in taking in some culture yourself, the River to River festival is ongoing through June 29th. Free public events include dance, art and music exhibits and shows happening throughout lower Manhattan. There’s always something cultural happening in New York, and it’s even better when the events are free!

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