From downstate to upstate, numerous African American burial sites dot New York. Some are in full view, while some are obscured. Yet all are reminders of both the rich history of Americans and the shameful past of segregation.
These sites include prominent ones like the African Burial Ground National Monument in Lower Manhattan. Also in the ranks are ones hidden within larger cemeteries like Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. There are those forgotten for years until supporters stepped forward to preserve them like the Pine Street African Burial Ground in Kingston. Some are even buried literally by development like the African Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery in Staten Island.
A number of individuals buried in these sites were enslaved in a state that didn’t ban the practice for two centuries. The New York legislature ended it on March 31, 1817, by approving July 4, 1827, as the date of final emancipation.
At a time when enslaved individuals weren’t even counted as a whole person, little thought was given to marked, dignified resting places for them. At several groundssites, the enslaved deceased were usually wrapped in sheets and buried in crude wooden coffins, with the burial sites marked by stones or wooden markers that wore away as the years passed.
Rye’s African American Cemetery is one burial ground that has been saved from obscurity in recent years.
The cemetery, located inside the Greenwood Union Cemetery, a 50-plus-acre burial site in two municipalities in New York’s Westchester County, was formed in 1860 from land donated to the Westchester County town of Rye. Rye is adjacent to the city of the same name.
The people buried there include 30 African American veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II.
However, many of the 380 graves in Rye’s African American Cemetery have yet to be identified.
David Thomas, who in 2010 formed the Friends of the African American Cemetery, said in an interview with the USA TODAY Network in 2021 that the vigilant efforts of community volunteers will help keep alive the memory of the ancestors buried there.
“We are always trying to make the site better with the help of the town, the city, the county, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts with their Eagle Scout projects,” Thomas said. “It’s a labor of love, and from a history standpoint, there’s a lot of history there that is unknown, and we are bringing that to the forefront.”
The following is an unofficial database of African American burial grounds in New York, compiled by this reporter through research and information provided by various sources. It’s aim is to help the public in tracking these sacred sites. It will grow with your input.
If you know of other African American burial sites in New York that belong in this listing, please send the information to Ricardo Kaulessar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historic Black cemeteries in New York state
Note: The location of the cemeteries identified on this map reflect proximity. They are not exact markers.
- African Burial Ground National Monument – Wall Street, New York City, New York County
- Cemetery of the Asbury Colored Peoples Church (also known as Stony Hill Cemetery) – Buckout Road, Harrison, Westchester County
- Flatbush African Burial Ground – Church Avenue, Brooklyn, Kings County
- Montgomery Colored Cemetery – Montgomery, Orange County
- Mount Moor African-American Cemetery – Palisades Center, Route 59, West Nyack, Rockland County
- New Paltz Rural Cemetery (segregated section) – Plains Road, New Paltz, Ulster County
- Newburgh Colored Burial Ground – Broadway and Robinson Avenue, Newburgh, Orange County
- Rye African American Cemetery – Canterbury Road, Town of Rye, Westchester County
- Turkey Hill Colored Cemetery – Turkey Hill Road, Milan, Dutchess County
- African Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery – Forest and Livermore Avenues, Staten Island, Richmond County
- New Utrecht Cemetery, 16th Avenue & 84th Street, Brooklyn, Kings County
- Mount Olivet Cemetery, Grand Avenue, Queens, Queens County
- Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground – Oak Point Avenue bet. Hunts Point Avenue and Longfellow Avenue and Drake Street, Bronx, Bronx County
- Pine St. African Burial Ground – Pine Street, Kingston, Ulster County
- Mt. Hope Cemetery – Mount Hope Avenue, Rochester, Monroe County
- Schuyler Flatts African Burial Ground, Route 32, Colonie, Albany County
- Joseph Carpenter Cemetery – Stratton Road, New Rochelle, Westchester County
- Vale Cemetery and Vale Park – State Streets, Schenectady, Schenectady County
- The Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground, 46th Avenue & 164th & 165th Streets, Queens, Queens County
- The Green-Wood Cemetery, 25th Street, Brooklyn, Kings County
- African Burial Ground (St. Philip’s Cemetery), Chrystie Street, New York City, New York County
- Pine Hollow Cemetery, Pine Hollow Road, Oyster Bay, Long Island, Nassau County
- The Heady Cemetery – Spring Valley Road, New Castle, Westchester County
- Rossville A.M.E. Zion Church Cemetery, Crabtree Avenue, Staten Island, Richmond County
Ricardo Kaulessar is a culture reporter for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic Region How We Live team. For unlimited access to the most important news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.