African Burial Ground


The burial ground in use for New York Town residents in the late 1600s was located at what is now the north graveyard of Trinity Church (of the Anglican / Church of England – today the Episcopal Church U.S.A.). The public burial ground was open to all for a fee, including to enslaved Africans. Some burials of deceased slaves were made just south of the public burial ground to avoid the fee.After Trinity was established as a parish church in 1697, the vestryman of the church began taking control of land in Lower Manhattan, including existing public burial grounds. When Trinity purchased the land at Wall Street and Broadway for the construction of their church, they passed a resolution on October 25, 1697: "That after the Expiration of four weeks from the dates hereof no Negro's be buried within the bounds & Limitts of the Church Yard of Trinity Church, that is to say, in the rear of the present burying place & that no person or Negro whatsoever, do presume after the terme above Limitted to break up any ground for the burying of his Negro, as they will answer it at their perill & that this order be forthwith publish'd."This prohibition against the burial of those of African descent necessitated finding another area acceptable to the colonial authorities. What would become the "Negro's Burial Ground" was located on what was then the outskirts of the developed town, just north of present-day Chambers Street and west of the former Collect Pond (later Five Points). Labeled on old maps as the "Negros Burial Ground," the 6.6-acre area was first recorded as being used around 1712 for the burials of enslaved and freed people of African descent. The first burials may date from the late 1690s after Trinity barred African burials in the former city cemetery.After the city closed the cemetery in 1794, the area was plotted for development. The grade of the land was raised with up to 25 feet (7.6 meters) of landfill at the lowest points covering the cemetery, thus preserving the burials and the original grade level. As urban development took place over the fill, the burial ground was largely forgotten. In October 1991, the United States Government agency, the General Services Administration (GSA) announced the discovery (or rediscovery) of intact burials during an archaeological survey and excavation for the construction of a new $275 million federal office building planned at 290 Broadway between Reade and Chambers Streets.

Banned, Oct 25, 1697
Opened, 1712


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