Burial-Place For Negroes, Slave and Free. 1865

 
 
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Beyond the commons lay what in the earliest settlement of the town had been appropriated as a burial-place for negroes, slave and free. It was a desolate, inappropriate spot, descending with a gentle declivity towards a ravine which led to the Kalkhook pond. The negroes in the city were, both in the Dutch and English colonial times, a proscribed and detested race, having nothing in common with the whites.

Many of them were Native Africans, imported hither in slave ships, and retaining their native superstitions and burial customs, among which was that of burying by night, with various mummeries and outcries. This custom was finally prohibited by the authorities from its dangerous and exciting tendencies among the blacks. So little seems to have been thought of the race that not even a dedication of their burial-place was made by the church authorities, or any others who might reasonably be supposed to have an interest in such a matter. The lands were inappropriate, and though within convenient distance from the city, the locality was unattractive and desolate, so that by permission the slave population were allowed to inter their dead there.

Apparently no consideration was given by the authorities to the uses to which this place was devoted, for we find that in 1673, the Dutch Governor Colve granted the land to a private citizen, not distinguishing it from vacant lands, the description being as follows: Beginning on the north end of the highway that leads to Kalkhook, containing in breadth fronting on the west side on the highway twenty-four rods, in the rear, on the east side, likewise twenty-four rods; in length on both sides as well along the Kalkhook as on the south, forty-four rods. It was still, however, allowed by the owners, for many subsequent years, to be used as the negro burial-place. The extent of this ground was about 400 feet along the east side of Broadway by 600 feet in depth.

The following proceedings in the common council in June, 1796, are interesting as showing the origin of Chambers street, and the establishment of the boundaries of the Park.

The committee on the memorial of Henry Kip and others, on adjusting boundary lines between the negroes' burial-ground, report and recommend.

1st. That the measure mentioned in the patent to Cornelius Van Borsum for said land, dated October 16, 1673, be, so far as this corporation is concerned, deemed English statute measure.

2d. That a street sixty-five feet wide, to remain a public street, be laid out opposite Chambers street, and to extend from Broadway to the east side of George street, and thence to Augustus street, as delineated on map annexed.

3d. That the claimants to the burying-ground release to the corporation their interest in the land so laid out for a street, and also of all land to the south of said street, and the corporation will release to said claimants all their interest in land north of the said street.

4th To compensate the claimants for the difference in extent of lands conveyed by them and those conveyed to them by the corporation, the corporation will convey to them lands bounded southeast by Augustus street, south by the street to be opened (Chambers), northwest by the negroes' burial-ground, and northeast by land of Janeway, and also certain lots on southeast side of Augustus street.

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Burial-Place For Negroes, Slave and Free. 1865
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

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BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Source: Valentine's Manual of the City of New York by D. Valentine 1865
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