For almost ten years, the word up and down 125th Street was that there was an African cemetary on the East end of the one mile and a quarter long strip just one block north at the 126th Street Transit Depot.
It’s been on public record for decades that the bus depot was built on a Reformed Dutch churchyard where Blacks in New York were buried from the 1600s to the 1800s. No one was ever able to prove it because no remains were ever discovered until now.
On Wednesday, the City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito along with Rev. Dr. Patricia Singletary, pastor of the Elmendorf Reformed Church at 171 East 121st Street, acting together as the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force, made the announcement of the discovery of 140 bones by archaeologists under contract to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Among the bones found was a skull, still in tact, that was said to be that of a Black woman, which Dr. Singletary named “Nana”.
The bones and bone fragments were all found in a layer of soil deposited outside the known boundaries of the cemetery, said A. Michael Pappalardo, an archaeologist at AKRF, which performed the work for the city. The remains were “disarticulated,” he said, that is, separated at the joints.
“No intact burials were encountered or disturbed,” Mr. Pappalardo said.