NEW YORK -- Tucked amid a tangle of government buildings, where office workers scurry through the streets, is a serene new memorial to thousands of enslaved and free Africans and their descendants who were buried here more than 200 years ago.
The dead, who were mostly forgotten over the centuries as New York City grew and a landfill and buildings covered their graves, now are commemorated in the African Burial Ground National Monument.
About 15,000 Africans and their descendants were buried here in the late 1600s and 1700s in what was then rural land, estimates the National Park Service, which administers the memorial. The 6 1/2 -acre burial ground was outside the boundaries of the New Amsterdam settlement, which later became New York, where slaves and free blacks were banned by whites from churchyard burial.
The memorial, which opened last month with speeches and spirituals, dignitaries and poets, has been a long time coming.
The human remains were discovered in 1991 during excavation for the expansion of a federal office building in Lower Manhattan. Eventually, construction was halted and the remains of the 419 men, women and children were disinterred, documented and reburied, with the Washington, D.C.-based Howard University conducting intensive research.
The African Burial Ground memorial was created on what is now a grassy plot of land, not much bigger than a suburban yard, on a street corner amid the warren of office buildings.
For a visitor, it is an incongruous and thought-provoking place, a tiny sacred space in the heart of what has become some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Amid the bustle of Manhattan, it quietly sheds light on the history of slavery in New York and the men, women and children who were buried here.
The outdoor memorial, constructed of gray and black stone from Africa and America, sits on the lawn. Visitors can walk through its ancestral chamber, a peak-roofed, 24-foot-tall tentlike structure of dark polished stone that's designed to evoke both a slave ship that carried people from Africa to the New World and the soaring African spirit.
Beside the ancestral chamber, a stone ramp spirals down to a small circular plaza, its walls lined with religious symbols from Africa and beyond. On the stone floor, a world map that focuses on Africa is inscribed on the stone floor, as are testaments to the dead who were found here: "Burial 96 - Young man between 16 and 18," reads one inscription.
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10 FOR THE ROAD
"Shark Alley," Gansbaai, South Africa
Kosi beach, South Africa
Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Bolinas Beach, Calif.
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Kahana, West Maui, Hawaii
West End, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas
Calendar eases congestion
With both Christmas and New Year's Day falling on Tuesdays this year, the Expedia.com Travel Trendwatch predicts that the peak season for holiday travel will be longer than usual. The report from the Web site also says the 17-day period for most travel will begin Dec. 20, and run through Jan. 5. While not everyone can stay away from the office that long, Expedia says it's good news for travelers because crowding may be spread out over more days than in other years, with people choosing among various dates before and after the holidays for their arrivals and departures.
ON THE STRIP
New buses vie for Vegas visitors
After two years of driving tourists up and down the Las Vegas Strip for $2 each way, the regional transportation authority's double-decker Deuce bus is getting some new competition. Vegas.com launched its "Arrow," a high-tech alternative that goes door-to-door to hotel-casinos on the Strip and downtown and costs $2.50 per ride. The buses feature touch-screen monitors that allow passengers to buy show tickets and make restaurant reservations along the way. For $10, passengers can ride the bus and Las Vegas Monorail all day.
Cruises making new splash
The tide is turning for cruise operators, as the once-soft Caribbean market begins to show signs of improvement, financial analysts say. Caribbean cruises - considered the industry's entry-level product because of their reasonable cost - are vital to the sector. Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. have been boosted by the recent uptick in interest in the Caribbean, a region where demand had been sluggish after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005.