Honoring a Hidden Slave Burial Ground

Mr. Panaritis, who ran a D.O.E. project called Coaching American Background, brought the burial floor to light after discovering a black-and-bright white photograph from 1910, displaying gravestones amid a tangle of weeds, with what “Slave burying floor, Hunts Point Street” written on the back. After further study, he discovered that as many as 44 slaves got lived in the region, regarding to 1800 census figures, with the previous burial in the 1840s. In the first 20th century, as a result of road engineering, the burial floor was graded, perhaps unearthing and destroying a few of the continues to be. He believes up to 11 slaves may be buried at the site.

In March, an archaeological review confirmed much of Mr. Panaritis’s study. Dr. Jessica Striebel MacLean, an archaeologist who carried out the study employing two rounds of ground-penetrating radar, identified what is apparently burial shafts and the profiles of four collapsed coffins simply beyond the bright white cemetery, near what would have been Hunts Point Road – now simply a path. The bright white landowner graves are located east-west, in keeping with Christian burial procedures. The slaves would have been buried away from the masters in unconsecrated floor. Their grave orientation – north-south – implies lower socioeconomic status.

Come early july parks officials met with the community and mentioned possibilities for identifying the site: a digital kiosk, new seating and signs, an engraved stone marker or a plaque. Some have suggested creating a visitors’ center at the site, but officials are cautious with disturbing the continues to be with engineering. The department is currently focusing on renderings and estimated costs for various scenarios.

The archaeological study was financed with $15,000 reserve by Status Senator Jeffrey D. Klein, with an additional $35,000 to support P.S. 48’s programs linked to the task. Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. in addition has budgeted $100,000 for improvements at the site.


Dr. MacLean suggests that further surveys be conducted, and also research into who could possibly be buried there, employing documents and wills, such as the transfer of ownership of the slaves in one generation to another.

In the spring of 2016, Justin Czarka, a teacher, and his students helped Dr. MacLean with her survey. They measured the standing up gravestones of the Hunt, Willett and Leggett families who settled here in the 17th century, discovered the types of stones used – marble, sandstone and granite – produced drawings and wrote up their private reports.

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“What was great about Jessica was that she could bring the kids in to the process and work with them,” explained Mr. Czarka, who teaches English as another language at the institution.

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“The children were so actively engaged,” Dr. MacLean explained. “And Justin used what we identified as a jumping-off level for these children to have them talk about the burial and storage traditions in their own families.” Kids at the institution come from several backgrounds and speak English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish.

Mr. Czarka, who helped Mr. Panaritis identified the Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground task and web-site, said some kids suggested construction an amphitheater or a level at the site so that programs can be executed in the park. His students have already been creating a “necessities assessment,” suggesting benches, trash cans, water fountains and brand-new plantings – basics at most city parks that are lacking at Drake.

Because the park has so couple of visitors, those basics have already been ignored for years. Benches, some argue, will only attract a bad element. Mr. Czarka disagrees. “It reinforces this vicious routine,” he said. “In the event that you don’t have those ideas, people won’t come to the park. But if they’re set up, people will make usage of it – for good,” he said, glancing over at Mr. Butler, nonetheless playing his trombone.

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