African Burial Ground National Monument | PARK AT A GLANCE

African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument


African Burial Ground National Monument marks the site of an African cemetery in New York City that was active from around 1690 until 1794. When the surrounding hills were leveled to fill in a small lake that had become polluted, the cemetery was buried under 25 feet of dirt. Protected by this massive layer of earth, new buildings were erected on the land without ever disturbing the graves. As years passed, the Negro Burial Ground, as it was called, was forgotten.

In 1991, with construction on the Ted Weiss Federal Building underway, archaeologists rediscovered the cemetery, putting a temporary halt to the project. The local African-American community and New York politicians demanded that the project be shut down out of respect for the dead, but George Washington himself could have been found buried there, and that wouldn’t stop a multi-million dollar business deal from going through. Thus, a compromise had to be reached.

Over 400 skeletons were exhumed from a section of the cemetery bordering Duane Street and Elk Street (now named African Burial Ground Way) before the U. S. Congress stopped the excavation. This area was eventually filled in and planted with sod, and it was the only section on the block not covered by the Weiss Federal Building. When research on the skeletons was completed 2003, the bones were reinterred in seven crypts located within the excavated area of the original burial ground. When visiting the outdoor memorial, seven grass-covered mounds are clearly visible.

In 1999, a design competition was announced for a physical memorial on the site, with a winner being chosen in 2004. The completed memorial was dedicated on October 5, 2007.

The last part of the National Monument, the Visitor Center and Museum, opened in 2010 within the Weiss Federal Building. Inside is an information desk and a wonderful museum that brings to light the history of slavery in New York. In addition, African-oriented artworks are on display in the lobby of the building.

George W. Bush created the African Burial Ground National Monument in February 2006. Today, millions of people pass by the outdoor memorial each year. However, the official visitation statistics for the park only count those who enter the Visitor Center. Due to the hassle of passing through airport-type security and the lack of knowledge that a Visitor Center even exists, the African Burial Ground National Monument is technically one of the least visited properties in the National Park system, with only 50,000 visitors a year.


The African Burial Ground National Monument consists of an outdoor memorial and an indoor visitor center and museum. The memorial is located on the corner of African Burial Ground Way and Duane streets. Duane Street between Broadway and Lafayette is closed to traffic and has armed security at each end, as does African Burial Ground Way, so you can only see the memorial on foot.

The Visitor Center is located in the Ted Weiss Federal Building and has its own entrance at 290 Broadway, so do not attempt to use any other entrance to the building. Visitors must pass through airport-type security, including the removal of shoes and belts, and adults must show identification.


The outdoor memorial at African Burial Ground National Monument is open from April 1st to October 31st on Tuesdays through Saturdays between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. These are the times when visitors can actually enter and walk through the memorial, and a National Park Service Ranger is usually on duty to answer any questions. Visitors can always view the memorial from the sidewalk at anytime, but it is now enclosed with a roof structure (open sides), so you can’t see much from the street. (Note: the photos on this page were taken before the roof structure was added.)

The Visitor Center and Museum are open year-round on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM, except when closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas days.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for African Burial Ground National Monument.


There are no fees associated with visiting the African Burial Ground National Monument.


Outdoor Memorial
allow 15 minutes

Visitor Center, Museum, and Art Gallery
allow 1 to 2 hours

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Last updated on August 28, 2020
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