A Memorial for Slaves


Johnnie Butler is a self-taught jazz trombonist. His favorite spot is found in Joseph Rodman Drake Park where he plays his music alone. There is no foot traffic in the area. At the same time, this is an area that has no benches, and he is forced to tag along with his own chair. He was recently told that a few meters from his favorite spot is a cemetery for African-American slaves. To his surprise, he didn’t know about the slave cemetery. He then jokes that might be the reason why he loves the spot. Mr. Butler is of African-American descent. While there is no marker, he was reminded that there is a small graveyard nearby that is usually locked and gated. This slave resting place can be found on a 2.5 acre-park that had been set aside for the slave owners. The spot is located in the middle of the park. As a matter of fact, a recent sign was added to the slaves’ cemetery. The sign uses the many names that slaves used to be referred to back in those days. Some of the names include seamstress, carpenter, groom as well as cook and blacksmith. The sign also has other names such as a driver, woodcutter, farm laborer as well as coachman and a nanny. The sign reminds those that visit the area that these are the people who worked without pay to see that the profitable estates in the area succeeded.

The New York Times found out that the area was discovered by a man known as Philip Panaritis. He had the assistance of local teachers and school children. After designing the sign back in 2014, he is now pushing the local officials for a monument for the slaves. He says that this is important as it will help remind people about their history. In a recent interview, he said that he has been deliberating with the Parks Department about the issue. He also mentioned that he used to work with education department before he retired. He said that he believed that 44 slaves had initially been buried in the area. However, due to a road construction in the area, some remains were destroyed. He estimates that 11 slaves are still buried in the area. The research was further confirmed by an archeologist in the area who was identified as Dr. Jessica Striebel MacLean. She said that she and her team used ground-penetrating radar to carry out the tests.


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