City Council Member Charles Barron announced that he is championing a new initiative to honor the lives of enslaved Africans who were buried in Brooklyn in the 1800s. In the past year, the councilman’s office discovered that New York African slaves were buried in parts of East New York near Livonia Avenue, where the city has since built a public library and city park on top of the sacred burial ground. In an effort to commemorate the neighborhood’s African ancestry, Barron is pushing to build a memorial in Schenck Park and an African burial ground museum on the second floor of the New Lots Library.
“We want to let people know that it was the slave labor of African people that built East New York,” Barron told the AmNews.
“When they escapaded the earth, they took the bones and reburied them across the street in a cemetery…then they desecrated them. They left them on the roadside and built over the remaining.”
The Brooklyn councilman is hoping the initiative will somewhat vindicate the debasing of those buried ancestors and serve as a history preservation for generations to come.
Barron also noted that many of East New York’s most popular streets–like Hegeman and Van Siclen avenues–were named after slave-holding families. Schenck Park, he says, was named after the largest slave-holding family in Brooklyn. Over 70 streets in the borough are named after slave-holding families. To bring honor back to the African ancestors once enslaved by the area’s most lauded slaveholders, the councilman is working to rename the monument and museum area “African Burial Square.” Barron has already filed for the street renaming at City Hall; it will be voted on by the City Council in April or May. The councilman said that once the renaming is approved, a capitol project would be filed shortly after. The entire museum and monument project is expected to take less than a year to build.
“We built East New York, and we want that known,” Barron said. “Our people now know the truth because we laid the history out.”