This the Monument is the 25-foot granite “Circle

This weekend I was given the opportunity to attend a trip that traveled
from Washington D.C. to New York City and back all within the span of twenty-four
hours. I decided to take this twenty-four hour trip in order to experience the
African American Burial Ground National Monument and all of the stories and
emotions that came along with it. The African American Burial ground in Lower
Manhattan, New York, conserves a site where more than 400 African American
slaves were buried during the 17th and 18th century by their loved ones. Not
only was it a profound finding, but also it is known to be one of the largest
colonial era cemeteries for Africans, both enslaved and free. To this day, it
is often called the most important historic urban archeological projects in the
United States.

The discovery was significant because it
discussed the forgotten history of Africans living in what is now New York
City, however, not everyone shares this resolve. Scholars and African American
civic activists joined to publicize its importance by picketing, protesting, as
well as lobbying for its preservation. In 1993, the site was designated as a
National Historic Landmark and finally in 2006 it became a National Monument. The
actual piece of art that marks the Monument is the 25-foot granite “Circle of Diaspora” that was
designed by Rodney Leon. The monument was built out of stones that were brought
from South African and North America in order to help symbolize the two worlds
coming together. It has an almost finished circle leading to a towering
pyramid, as its basic shape. On the pyramid reads: “For all those who were lost, for all those who were stolen, for all
those who were left behind, for all those who were never forgotten.”
The monument is also accompanied by a museum
that helps to depict the struggles of the enslaved Africans in New York City
during that time. The entire museum is based off the story of one girl and her
family. Where numerous pictures, quotes and documents are displayed all
throughout the walls. In one room, there is a wax-figure reenactment of the
burial of the girls’ father. I cannot even begin to describe how the
entire experience made me feel. From the beginning of the day when we walked
onto the ground site and the tour guide began to tell the story of how the
Africans buried their loved ones, my heart melted. It was extremely moving and
saddening to picture the women and children crowded around a casket in what is
now New York City. It made me feel like for years; people were walking all over
them, building all over them.

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The Burial Ground is located in an area known by historians as Little Africa which offers proof to the
world that those free and enslaved Africans acted in a key position in the growth
of New Amsterdam, known today as New York City. The first Africans came to New
Amsterdam in 1626 by the demand of The West India Company. Who wanted to
continue the expansion of the colony but they did not desire to do so at high
the expenses that the construction demanded. The male slaves that came from the
West Indies were taught to be artisans, craftsmen and skilled laborers that
were associated with shipping, construction and other trades in addition to
being servants. They built buildings, roads and walls, including the Wall which
is now known to the world as Wall Street. A long with these tasks they also had
to tend to flock as well as unloading the cargo from incoming ships. The
female’s workload mainly consisted of house hold chores such as cleaning, cooking
and taking care of young children. Despite the fact that they were far away
from home, the African slaves still maintained some of their cultures. One of
the most favored culture they brought with them were the rituals that they
practiced back in Africa which was often used as a way to help cope with the
pressures of being a slave in New Amsterdam.
            While the African slaves were here,
some slaves, under Dutch rule, became “half-free” meaning that they were able
to do certain things like white people but this only lasted until New Amsterdam
was captured by the British in 1664. At the time, New Amsterdam had the second
highest population of enslaved slaves in the United States however in 1827, New
York abolished slavery which left the burial ground untouched until its douser
in 1812.  The records of numerous births
and deaths were largely kept by churches and not by the colonials which was in
the early stages of developing a government. One of the main reasons why it was
hard for scientists and historians to figure out who those Africans are was because
most of the church records were destroyed due to the fact that some of the Africans
were not church members.
              More than 400 bodies were found, out of the
said number, 99% were infants and in relation to
this percentage, it was noted that 40% of those infants were under the age of
12. This leads me to surmise that the kids were literally worked to death. What
was also notably was that out of the 400 graves that were found, archeologists
discovered that there were around 200 remains at the site that were undisturbed.
This is astounding to me because the burial site takes up about 6.6 acres, which
back then would measure to about 6 city blocks.

 Overall my experience going to the grounds was
attention-grabbing, despite the fact that I had already visited the grounds
once before. When I went on this tour, I tried to do so with clean slight. As I
think back to my first encounter with the burial ground I must admit I was not
all that impressed. The reason being that the tour consisted was watching a video
on the history of the grounds as well as tour the museum and the adjusting monument.
I remember that I was expecting to actually walk the original untouched ground
where the graves were, so that we could actually get to experience first-hand
what their graves would look like. I realize now that the best possible
experience is the twenty-four-hour trip to Washington D.C. because of the
plantation walk that this trip took as too. Through these experience, I was
able see some of the burial sites as well as their churches that they attempted
and where they slept at night. Those kinds of experience make me realize see
how much I take the things that I have for granted.