Excavating an African Burial Ground: Lack of Funding Could Mean Loss of Information Forever

Excavating an African Burial Ground: Lack of Funding Could Mean Loss of Information Forever

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Excavating an African Burial Ground: Lack of Funding Could Mean Loss of Information Forever

As children growing up in the United States, educated through our public schools, we learned about the institution of slavery, which was an integral part of life in our country for nearly 300 years. We do not usually question the historical facts we learned about slavery or ask how we know so much about the history of these people (the enslaved Africans in America) who left behind so little written record. In the classroom, archeologists do not receive much credit, but it is largely through their work and research that we have been able to learn about “America’s diverse ethnic heritage” (Singleton 155). In the 1960’s, excavations of slave cabins inspired a new area of research. Today’s field of African-American Archaeology was born from these first digs, only three decades ago. Archaeologists carefully and skillfully collect artifacts, which are “tangible material remains and by-products of behavior” (Singleton 156). Through historical and ethnographic analysis and interpretation, archeologists are able to put together pieces of the daily lives and living conditions of the first African-Americans.

One such African-American archaeological dig, called the African Burial Ground Project, is currently taking place in New York City. In 1991, the construction crew for a new, $276 million federal office building stumbled across the skeletons of what are now known to be early African slaves. The United States General Services Administration (GSA), the government agency that handles the funding and administration of all federal property, began further exploration of the site. Today we know that this “plot of land is just a sliver of the 18th ...


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...es 21 Mar. 1999: Sec. 14, pg. 6.

Gaines, Patrice. “Bones of Forebears; Howard U. Study Stirs Ghanaian Chiefs to Honor Ages-Old Link to U.S. Blacks.” The Washington Post 3 Aug. 1995: B01.

LaFee, Scott. “Grave Injustice; Archaeologists are Beginning to Unearth the Buried, Tragic Secrets of America’s First Slaves.” The San Diego Union-Tribune 15 Sep. 1999: E-1.

“New Chief of African Burial Ground Project.” The New York Beacon 16 June 1999: 12.

Satchell, Michael. “Only Remember Us.” U.S. News & World Report 28 July 1997: 51-52.

Singleton, Theresa A. “The Archaeology of Slave Life.” Before Freedom Came: African-American Life I the Antebellum South. Ed. Edward D.C. Campbell, Jr. and Kym S. Rice. Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1991. 155-175.

Staples, Brent. “Manhattan’s African Dead.” Editorial. The New York Times 22 May 1995: A14.

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