New York abolished slavery in 1827; New Jersey abolished slavery only gradually, substituting indentureship for slavery in 1804, and at the time of the American Civil War there were former slaves who were still "indentured for life" in New Jersey.
Historians believe the site to have been the interment location for as many as 15,000 to 20,000 African-American men, women, and children over the years of its use, which stretched from the 17th century to its closure in 1812. New York Governor David Paterson is reported to have dubbed the grounds "our Ellis Island".
The construction project became controversial because some believed the research design originally proposed was not adequate. It did not have a plan for the treatment of uncovered remains. In addition, the African-American descendant community in New York City was not consulted in the development of the research design, nor were any archaeologists with experience studying the African diaspora. After protests from a coalition of community members, politicians, and scholars, control of the burial site was transferred to Michael Blakey and his team at Howard University for study.
As part of the dedication ceremonies, Elk Street was officially renamed African Burial Ground Way.
A design competition attracted 61 proposals for a site memorial. The winning memorial design was chosen in June 2004 and was dedicated on October 5, 2007. The grounds serve as a location for various cultural exhibitions and events throughout the year.
The memorial design for a granite monument was by Haitian-American architect Rodney Leon. It is titled The Door of Return, in reference to The Door of No Return, a name given to slave ports on the coast of West Africa. The monument was dedicated in a ceremony presided by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and poet Maya Angelou.
Proclamation 7984--Establishment of the African Burial Ground National Monument.(Week Ending Friday, March 3, 2006)
Mar 06, 2006; February 27, 2006 By the President of the United States of America A Proclamation In Lower Manhattan, at the corners of Duane and...