In 1991, the construction of a new federal government office building in Lower Manhattan led to a sacred discovery- the skeletal remains of more than 400 Africans. Finding this long-lost burial ground led to what is considered to be the "most important historic urban archaeological project undertaken in the United States” and the creation of a new U.S. National Monument.
It is estimated that from about the 1690s until 1794, there were more than 15,000 free and enslaved Africans laid to rest in a 6.6-acre burial site. The graveyard actually lay outside the walls of the colony of New Amsterdam, which later became New York City.
Archaeologists removed 419 bodies as part of the excavation project. They were later reburied, along with artifacts that were unearthed, in the exact same place. The African Burial Ground site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and a U.S. National Monument in 2006. It is the first National Monument dedicated to New York’s early Africans and all African Americans. The memorial’s design was selected in 2004 and in 2007, a dedication ceremony for the finished monument was held with Mayor Bloomberg and Maya Angelou in attendance.