below, the area in 1879
below in 1836
from the manhattan kids blog
Human remains from an African burial ground circa 1700 may still be present near East 126th St. & 1st Avenue (NW corner) in East Harlem
Ever since Nellie Hester Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council, Inc. mentioned in passing at a Summer 2008 rally that an African burial ground dating from the Dutch and British colonial era may exist in East Harlem, we have been frantically looking for more details to no avail. Recall that an African Burial Ground dating from the 1600s and 1700s was re-discovered in 1991 in downtown Manhattan near City Hall which finally became a national monument memorial in 2007.
The New York Times has published the most exhaustive survey of the potential site of a Harlem African burial ground we have seen on January 19, 2009 (which coincidentally is the Martin Luther King Day federal holiday): Article from the New York Times: Are traces of the original Harlem settlement — including an African burial ground — awaiting discovery during the replacement of the Willis Avenue Bridge and the planned rehabilitation of the 126th Street Bus Depot? The painting below shows the Harlem waterfront as it appeared in 1765. The steeple of the Reformed Low Dutch Church can be seen at the far right. Just below are what appear to be headstones.
There will be no way to know for certain until the soil is dug up, but the prospect of such a discovery is being greeted both anxiously and eagerly by a couple of stewards of Harlem history. The bucolic farming village of Nieuw Haarlem was established in March 1658, meaning that it is still in its 350th anniversary year. “What an awesome way to celebrate!” said Christopher Paul Moore, a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the research coordinator for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library. “Seems like a cultural bonus could be reaped from this, and not just about preserving the cemetery, but preserving or recapturing a hugely significant era in New York’s history, the founding and settlement of Harlem.”