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Ceremony Marks Dedication of Historic African Burial Ground at St. Agnes Cemetery, Menands, NY Where Schuyler Flatts Slaves Are Buried

On Saturday, June 17, a special bronze plaque dedication ceremony marked the Historic African Burial Ground site at Historic St. Agnes Cemetery, 48 Cemetery Ave. Menands, NY. The ceremony was an interdenominational ecumenical ceremony attended by clergy and spiritual leaders from dozens of churches in our community. It was also a community celebration with traditional African dance, poetry readings, spiritual music by Heavenly Echoes and keynote by Nell Stokes, a local expert in African history, as well as a resolution designating June 17 as Ancestor Appreciation Day.

The African Burial Ground, formerly the Schuyler Flatts Burial Ground Project was created to pay tribute to the discovered remains of 14 formerly enslaved Africans; to honor these souls with dignity and respect. The project was awarded a 2016 NYS Historic Preservation Award granted to the Schuyler Flatts Burial Ground Committee.

In 2005, the human remains of 14 individuals—6 women, 1 man, 2 children, and 5 infants—were discovered during a construction project in Colonie. Hartgen Archeological Associates and the bioarchaeologists from the New York State Museum ascertained that the remains were nearly 200 years old and they were found on land that once belonged to the colonial Schuyler family, the family that had enslaved them.

Last June, after many years of study, the remains were laid to rest in a special interdenominational burial service presided over by local clergy and community leaders, with hundreds of community members in attendance. News of the project and burial ceremony spread quickly and was publicized throughout the U.S. and worldwide; with extensive media by nearly 50 U.S. newspapers, major broadcast news stations, and even worldwide coverage in the U.K., Australia and many other countries.

Burial of the dead has always been recognized by the Catholic Church as a religious rite and a corporal work of mercy that shows compassion and respect for all, living and deceased. Albany Diocesan Cemeteries takes that charge seriously, and we are very pleased to show to compassion and respect for these 14 individuals and provide them with a dignified resting place and formal African burial Ground.

The ceremony took place two days before Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery throughout the confederate south.

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