Manhattan school marks forgotten slave cemetery as sacred ground

INWOOD, Manhattan (WABC) — Officials at a school in Upper Manhattan are honoring the memory of slaves after it was discovered the school sits on long forgotten cemetery.

PS 98 in Inwood held a commemoration ceremony Friday to mark the ground as sacred, as students reached for a new understanding of what was once buried at the site of their school.

“At one time at this site, it was filled with sadness,” principal Maritza Rodriguez said. “It was filled with grief. But now, it is a place where children learn and dream.”

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In the early 1900s, construction workers discovered a site on 212th Street where an estimated 36 enslaved Africans had been buried.
“Historic maps also indicate that prior, this land had been used by the Lenape people for ceremonial purposes,” said Meredith Horsford, with the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum Alliance. “The burial ground was for the enslaved who lived and worked for the families in this region, now known as Inwood.”

The ceremony marked the commemoration of the land, with spoken word and children dancing — the culmination of years of research by the Alliance.

“We and our community hope to bring peace to those who rested here, as well as their ancestors,” Horsford said.

There’s a plaque out front now, just unveiled Friday, to teach the history of what happened there and make sure those who died are not forgotten.
“We acknowledge these spaces for our young people, so that they know they are standing and walking on shoulders of greatness, of giants who made great sacrifices,” Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter said.

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