Poetry, Mask-Making, the Maritime Dimension of the Underground Railroad, and More
The African Burial Ground National Monument, at 290 Broadway, will host several weeks of observances celebrating Black History Month starting February 3, at 11:30am, when elected officials including State Assembly member Charles Fall and City Council member Christopher Marte, along with District Leaders Mariama James and Ron Thomas, will gather at the monument to commemorate the financial and physical contributions of enslaved Africans in colonial era New York. The program will honor local Black leaders, artists, industry chiefs, and neighbors with performances, and will be followed by a community party commemorating the Black diaspora and Pan-Africanism at La Diaspora Bar and Restaurant (91 Baxter Street), from 2:30pm to 4:30pm.
The African Burial Ground is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for free and enslaved Africans. It was discovered in 1991 when archeological excavation in advance of the construction of a federal office tower at 290 Broadway revealed human skeletal remains 30 feet below street level. Eventually, upwards of 15,000 intact skeletal remains of enslaved and free Africans who lived in New York from the 1630s to the 1790s were discovered. The burial ground is now part of the National Park Service.
Events continue at the African Burial Ground National Monument each of the following Saturdays in February. Programs will include a craft segment such as jewelry-making or African mask-making, a performance, and a talk or book reading. On Presidents Day, Monday, February 19, at 11am, National Park Service staffers will lead a discussion of “Making the Image Behind Washington: Enslavement and the Presidency,” which will highlight the enslaved community surrounding America’s first President. All events at the African Burial Ground National Monument are free and open to the public.
On February 22, at 6pm, join the Downtown Alliance at the Alamo Draft House (28 Liberty Street) to view the 2016 documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” an exploration of race, power, and American history by author James Baldwin. After the screening, Professor Dagmawi Woubshet will discuss the film’s themes and Baldwin’s insights. The cost: $5.
Two events on Sunday, February 25, illuminate Black history in Lower Manhattan. At 2pm, a livestreamed presentation by the National Lighthouse Museum will delve into Sailing to Freedom: Recovering and Re-centering the Maritime Dimension of the Underground Railroad. According to the museum, “With few exceptions, successful escapes from enslavement in the Deep South were achieved not overland, but by water. ”
At 2:30pm the same day, the South Street Seaport Museum, at 12 Fulton Street, will host Poetry of Enslavement and the African Burial Ground with poet David Mills.