In Lower Manhattan, people in suits pass by a green space with a modest stone monument on their way to the city’s big courthouses. They rarely stop to notice the African Burial Ground National Monument, marking the historic site where more than 15,000 Africans were buried when the city banned slave funerals and burials from church cemeteries.
The burial ground was discovered during a construction project in 1991 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993. Yet it took more than a decade of political pushing and preservation work before the National Park Service (NPS) opened the site as a national monument.
Now Black church leaders are pressing the federal agency to develop more memorials like this one. They want to mark Black history on public land, and they have specific spots in mind like the site of the 2015 church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.
This month, leaders of the some of the largest Black Protestant denominations and several state Baptist…