Taking a Knee on Sacred Ground

City Council members taking a knee in front of City Hall. (Photo by Bernice Elizabeth Green via Our Time Press)

Last week several members of the New York City Council took a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, with Council member Jumaane Williams holding a Kaepernick jersey. In so doing, the city officials asserted their denunciation of racism and the importance of upholding the American right of freedom of speech, writes Bernice Elizabeth Green in Our Time Press. She adds:

But there was something more poignant about yesterday’s demonstration, it was a reminder that all of this was happening on sacred ground.  Historians have determined that City Hall is just a few feet south of the Colonial-era  ‘Negros Burial Ground’ considered the largest colonial-era cemetery for enslaved African people and ‘possibly the largest and earliest collection of American colonial remains of any ethnic group.’

These enslaved Africans – many young children worked unpaid, without health benefits of any sort, and who cleared the trees and made the pathway for the construction of Wall Street and all of the other buildings, including City Hall, living only to work.  It is estimated that from the mid-17th century to 1795, nearly 200,000 had been worked to death and were buried there.

A portion of the cemetery discovered in 1991 during an excavation along the short Elk Street – now African Burial Ground Way, was designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior in 1993. A memorial was dedicated in 2007.  The tenth anniversary celebrations take place at the memorial site, now a Federal Landmark, next week.

The Amsterdam News reports on the 10th anniversary celebrations, which begin with a rededication program on Tuesday, Oct. 3 and end on Saturday, Oct. 7 with a family day celebration that includes dance, drumming and storytelling.

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