Fourth and fifth graders in Bronx Public School 48 have uncovered a long forgotten chapter of Bronx history: a slave graveyard inside Joseph Rodman Drake Park, reports The Daily News. When Drake Park was originally created in 1909, an 18th century cemetery of wealthy slave owning families like the Tiffanys, Hunts and Leggets had been preserved. The students and their teacher, Justin Czarka, wondered where the accompanying slave graves might be, as the 1790 Census had already counted 156 Black and Indian slaves in Hunts Point.
Utilizing city records, newspapers and survey maps, they located a potential spot southwest of the slave owner cemetery, which was “obliterated’ during the construction of the park. The Parks Department got behind the project earlier this spring, and the US Department of Agriculture sent scientists to perform soil tests using radar this summer. Several areas of the park were determined to have “anthropogenic features” as “likely potential burial sites,” including the very spot the students had found.
The Parks Department will unveil a new plaque in spring 2014, and a fundraising campaign for a monument will be launched by U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the NAACP.