African Burial Ground National Monument

New York, NY

The doors to the African Burial Ground Monument visitors center in New York City.

Scope: Interpretive Master Plan, Improving the Visitor Experience

In 1991, a startling discovery changed forever the way Americans would understand their history. During excavation prior to the construction of a federal office building at Broadway and Duane Streets in Manhattan, workers began to unearth dozens, and then hundreds, of sets of human remains, buried more than thirty feet below the surface of the street. With construction halted, researchers and scholars began a ten-year process of uncovering the stories behind those forgotten graves. They learned that the remains were those of an estimated 15,000 Africans and Americans of African descent, both enslaved and free, whose burial had been forbidden within New York City limits in the 17 th and 18 th-centuries. Their research uncovered the long-neglected history of slavery in the city and in the North, and brought to light the critical contributions of Africans in New York to the building of early America.

A remarkable–and controversial–campaign by advocates on behalf of the African Burial Ground resulted in the site’s designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1993. In 2006, African Burial Ground National Monument became a unit of the National Park System by Presidential Proclamation. The Proclamation required that a General Management Plan (GMP) be prepared for the monument, and the GMP in turn called for creation of a Long-Range Interpretive Plan (LRIP). Interpretive Solutions worked with National Park Service staff and stakeholders from New York City to facilitate a series of workshops to define the interpretive foundation and priorities for further development of this remarkable landmark.