Episode 36: “Burial Grounds in a Segregated City”: Tom Angotti
Professor Emertis, Hunter College.
During the period of Dutch and English settlement, New York City was one of the nation’s largest urban centers for the slave trade and served as a financial patron of the plantation economy in the South. In the Dutch colony, as many as 40 percent of the population were slaves.
Slaves had no choice of residence, were treated like a commodity, and even in burial were denied equal access. At the end of the 17th century, Trinity Church formally banned blacks from its cemetery in lower Manhattan as land in the fortified city became scarce. The African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan were a result of this process. And perhaps most shocking of all, it even limited their access to New York City’s Potters Field, Hart Island. Even in death their discrimination persisted.