Remains may be reburied from Colonial-era cemetery

Thursday, June 26, 2003

NEW YORK -- Remains of some slaves and free blacks that were dug up 12 years ago after the discovery of a Colonial-era graveyard may be finally reburied at the site this fall.

The reburial is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4, and it will follow several days of ceremonies to mark the event, said Cassandra Henderson, a spokeswoman for the regional office of the federal agency overseeing the project.

The burial site, closed in 1794, was the final resting place for thousands of people who were not allowed graves alongside whites. When the 300-year-old remains were uncovered during construction of a federal office building in lower Manhattan in 1991, the discovery became international news.

Archaeologists uncovered the remains of 408 people, about half of them children under age 12, before opposition to the disinterments led then-President Bush to order a halt to the digging in 1992.

The skeletal remains, including a woman who was interred with an infant cradled in her right arm, were sent to Howard University to be studied. Scientists and historians believed they could gain insight into the little-known lives and deaths of blacks in the northern United States.

An elaborate reburial ceremony and plans for a memorial were promised, and more than $21 million in federal funding was invested over the first decade.

But the project has been fraught with delays and unfulfilled promise. A Howard anthropologist became locked in a financial dispute with the federal government, and research stalled.

The General Services Administration, the agency overseeing the project, solicited public comment Wednesday on plans for more than 1,000 artifacts found with the remains.

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