By Deborah S. Morris
4 October 2003

From the spot alongside the East River where slaves once were sold, and through the streets of lower Manhattan, the remains of 419 former slaves 
came home Friday for re-interment in the African Burial Memorial site - a return observed with ceremony both joyous and mournful.

Twelve years after the remains were unearthed from their resting place, an emotional throng paid respects.

"We landed here this morning amid the skyscrapers kissing the sky, to resume history. Had it not been for our ancestors, there would be no 
skyscrapers, and we are here to honor them and return them to where they belong, to what they have helped build," said the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, 
the activist minister of House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Downtown Brooklyn.

Four sets of the remains, representing all of those being reinterred, arrived at what used to be a slave market at Pier 11 after a symbolic 
procession from the nation's capital. The remains of two children and two adults made the journey home through Baltimore, Wilmington, Del.; 
Philadelphia, Newark and Jersey City before arriving in New York.

All the remains were stored at Howard University since shortly after being unearthed in 1991 during excavation for a federal building.

After a two-hour ceremony at the pier, three horse-drawn carriages - holding all 419 sets of remains - traversed lower Manhattan to the 
gated memorial site at Duane and Elk streets. Once there, a 20-hour vigil commenced. All of the remains are to be officially reinterred 
Saturday afternoon. 

"It feels wonderful to be a part of this and learn the history firsthand," said Maimouna Youssef, 18, a student from Baltimore who traveled 
with the remains on the five-city tour. "I'm proud to be a part of this day."

At the morning ceremony at Pier 11, the four wooden coffins, hand-carved in Ghana, were front and center on a platform as a prayer was 
sung in the West African language of Yoruba. Two people wearing ceremonial African dress poured liquid from glasses as an expression 
of the concept that death does not end life, but is an event in life.

The day was lauded by former Mayor David N. Dinkins, the city's first black mayor; Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a parade of dignitaries. 
"This day is very important. Especially for the young people. Living in New York you tend to think slavery was only down South," said Jeffrey Kirkland, 
37, a computer programmer from Brooklyn. "It shows that slavery was in the North and South. It is a lesson."

State Sen. David Paterson (D-Manhattan), who was instrumental in making sure the remains were returned to the site, said the historical 
significance is most important. "This is American history. This isn't just black history. 

The burial grounds are just a tool in which American history is told in the right way," he said. "This is secret, unknown history that is 
finally being told. Finally."

Hallowed Homecoming
Twelve years after they were removed from their lower Manhattan plot, the 419 African slaves' remains will be reburied in the now-historic landmark.


1712: The first of 20,000 slaves are interred in "Negro Burying Place,'' an unceremoniously named 5.5-acre plot north of Wall Street.

1794: Cemetery is closed.

1991: Remains discovered by construction workers and later sent to Washington D.C. for study.

1993: Site designated historic landmark.

2003: After ceremonies in Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities, remains return to New York for reburial.

Procession route from Pier 11 
(Ceremony Friday at pier where slave shops docked) to Elk Street and Federal Plaza (Remains reinterred Saturday at 
African Burial Ground 

In a ceremony both somber and celebratory, the remains of  419 colonial-era blacks were re-interred Saturday at a lower Manhattan 
site just a short distance from a former slave market. 

Hundreds of people turned out on a gray, rainy day to pay tribute to the slaves and free blacks first buried more than 200 years ago. 
The weather was perfect for the event, said Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a civil rights activist. 

"It would seem to be incongruous to come to this occasion in bright and radiant sunshine," Daughtry said. 

The ceremony, with a mix of singers, dancers and speakers, was in stark contrast to the hard lives led by the blacks buried in lower 
Manhattan. Nearly half of the 419 sets of remains belong to children. 

It was also in contrast to the cemetery's past. The five-acre burial ground, closed in 1794, was ignored for nearly two centuries until it 
was rediscovered in 1991 during construction of a federal office tower. 

More than 20,000 people of African descent were buried in the graveyard. Community pressure forced the government to abandon work and begin 
examining the remains. 

Most of the remains were placed into seven oversized wooden crypts for burial at the site. Flowers were piled atop and around each of the crypts. 

Four caskets holding the remains of a boy, girl, woman and man were placed in front of the crypts. Their remains had been separated from the others 
and taken to ceremonies in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Newark, N.J., before arriving in New York on Friday. 

The burial ground, when it was active, was actually located outside the city limits. On Friday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted that the 
South Street Seaport, now a tourist attraction, was once the site where slaves were auctioned. 

When the caskets were brought through lower Manhattan on Friday, some along the route wept. 

On the Net: African Burial Ground
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