A Long Time Coming

When I read this news, it made me cry.

"About 15,000 African slaves and their descendants were once unceremoniously buried under what is today Manhattan— and forgotten.

On Saturday, a new visitor center opened near the rediscovered cemetery from the 17th and 18th centuries to celebrate the ethnic Africans who had toiled, many unpaid, to help make New York the nation’s commercial capital.

"It’s shocking — the number of people today who are still unaware that this history exists in New York," said Tara Morrison, superintendent of the African Burial Ground National Memorial.

It’s located a short walk from Wall Street, where African slaves once were traded."

It was a good cry, what my kids used to call "happy tears." We are finally beginning to look at our shared history of slavery. We have to look at it in order to understand it. We have to understand it in order to learn how American culture became so poisoned with racism and prejudice. We have to learn, acknowledge, and own our history, so that we might become the nation we have always had the potential to be: a country where all people truly are treated and respected equally. That’s my dream, too.

Make your day better and read the entire article. The author got one thing wrong: New York did abolish slavery in 1827, but the statue had loopholes that left people in New York in bondage well after that year.

It has taken centuries, but now we finally have recognition and respect for the people who deserve it the most: the African Burial Ground National Monument. I visited the site in its early days and was deeply moved. Any trip you take to Lower Manhattan needs to include this. (The monument’s superintendent, Tara Morrison, was a wonderful resource when I was writing CHAINS.) Be sure to check out this photo essay to see more.

If you’ve read CHAINS, you already know where this Burial Ground was.

This is Manhattan around the time of the Revolution.

Remember the Commons, where the traitor who planned on assassinating George Washington was executed, and where the British barracks and the jail were?

The Commons is that triangle above. See the Water up there, too? That was the Collect Pond. The African Burial Ground was very close to the original Pond. In CHAINS, Isabel mentions it on page 112

I’ll keep my eye on the NPS website for the new monument and will be sure to add links to any classroom resources they put up in the new-and-improved version of my website.

Since I’m on the topic of race and cultural heritage, this is a good time to link to Anne Sibley O’Brien’s post on white privilege in children’s literature.

What do you think about all of this?