Geography Awareness Week: Honoring a Forgotten Slave Cemetery


Students and educators who discovered a slave burial site at a Bronx park are working to have a marker placed, delivering belated recognition to early New Yorkers. (New York Times)

The Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground Project has a fantastic, standards-aligned curriculum. This citizen science project is a perfect example of the Geography of Civil Rights—this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources, including today’s simple MapMaker Interactive map.

Navigate today’s MapMaker Interactive map to better understand the geographic history of Hunts Point.

Discussion Ideas

  • How did educators, historians, archaeologists, and students help discover the Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground? Read through this earlier article from the New York Times for some help.
    • documentary artifacts
      • The park already has a fenced-off cemetery dating from colonial and revolutionary-era New York. Local landowners—many of them slaveowners—are buried there. Learn more about the history of the park here.
      • An educator researching local history discovered a 1910 photograph of the area labeled “Slave burying ground, Hunts Point Road.” Take a look at the photo here.
      • Old maps of New York revealed roads and land-use patterns indicating a larger burial site than the existing cemetery.
      • The 1800 Census revealed that as many as 44 slaves had lived in the area. Investigate the telltale Census data here.
    • technology
      • Ground-penetrating radar revealed burial shafts and the profiles of four collapsed coffins just beyond the white cemetery. The placement and orientation are just where experts would expect to find a slave cemetery—outside the consecrated ground of their owners’ cemetery, and oriented north-south, as opposed to east-west.



  • How do you think historical sites and narratives like the ones associated with the Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground can be “lost”?
    • The experiences of marginalized peoples are often lost or dismissed in the historical narrative. For instance, much scholarship on the Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground focuses on its history during New York’s colonial and revolutionary eras. Slave narratives, women’s essays and diaries, letters from immigrants, and Native American cartographic expressions are all documents that rarely make it into introductory lessons on this time period.
    • In the words of the great writer Chinua Achebe (it’s his birthday today): “Until the lions have their own historians, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”



  • Where is a good place to start researching the forgotten history of your own neighborhood?
    • The library, of course! Local librarians are almost always happy to help you find books, maps, real estate records, and other archival goodies.



New York Times: Honoring a Hidden Slave Burial Ground

New York Times: South Bronx Students May Have Found Site of Slave Burial Ground

Nat Geo: Joseph Rodman Drake Park and Slave Burial Ground

Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground: Project Flow and Teaching Ideas

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation: Joseph Rodman Drake Park History

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