The push is on to designate a section of a Bronx park as a national historic site after Hunts Point students and their teachers discovered that hundreds of African slaves could be buried beneath it. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.
Little historians working on a school project helped uncover an African slave burial ground.
"I've been studying the burial ground for two years," said Thomas Kelly, a student at P.S. 48. "I learned that the slave burial grounds are around here, like, slaves, they're around here."
It started last year, when their teachers discovered the photo seen at left while working with the department of education's Teaching American History project that focuses on teaching local history to kids.
"There's an image that said, 'Slave burial ground' in the Bronx, but that was all the information we had on it," said Brian Carllin, director of the Teaching American History Project.
They turned to the Huntington Free Library for help. Its president, Thomas Casey, immediately recognized the photo and offered some insight.
"The U.S. census, the first one we have is 1790, and we find from the 1790 reports that, in fact, about one-third the population were slaves," Casey said.
They were slaves who belonged to the Hunts, Leggettes, the Tiffanys, families that owned large portions of land in the 17th-century Bronx.
The white landowners were buried in a fenced-off cemetery preserved in Drake Park, while the rest of the park was built over the burial ground for their slaves.
Elected officials and community members are now calling for official recognition of the land where the slaves are interred.
"Make sure that we put this site, we put this African-American burial ground on the site of the state historic registry," said state Senator Jeff Klein, whose district covers parts of the Bronx and Westchester.
Those involved say that even a sidewalk in the park could be hallowed ground. They believe that the burial ground stretches throughout much of this area, and they want to see the people buried here memorialized.
"The slave burial ground could be only one place, partially within the bounds of today's Drake Park," Casey said.
"We must begin the conversations towards identifying and properly acknowledging their sacrifices and their legacy," said Dashawn Williams, president of the Bronx chapter of the National Action Network.
Legislators say they won't stop with recognition on the state registry and hope to have the burial ground recognized as a national historic site, too.