Jesse Jackson claimed in a 2003 speech that New York's financial district was built on an "African burial ground." Since then I have seen this claim repeated may times on Facebook memes.
Is there any evidence to support the claim?
Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
Yes, there is an African Burial Ground National Monument recognizing this.
From about the 1690s until 1794, both free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6-acre burial ground in Lower Manhattan, outside the boundaries of the settlement of New Amsterdam, later known as New York. Lost to history due to landfill and development, the grounds were rediscovered in 1991 as a consequence of the planned construction of a Federal office building.
According to the 1859 book History of the City of New York: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present:
The negro burial ground was at the corner of Broadway and Chambers street, on the site now occupied by Stuart's marble building.
That intersection is on the northern edge of the financial district as defined here.
and in the 1855 book Reminiscences of the City of New York and Its Vicinity:
there is a timeline heading:
Part of the Negroes' Burial-ground, south of Chambers street, (in the present Park,) Question, as to ceding to the City, 1796.
under which it is explain that the portion of the burial ground south of Chambers street was taken over by the city in exchange for other land in 1796.
So, yes part of the financial district was built on the burial ground.
See also Manual of the corporation of the city of New York (1865) starting at page 567 for more details of the location of the burial ground and the creation of Chambers street though the burial ground.
And also the 1837 Documents of the Board of Alderman of the City of New York, vol. III, page 74:
In 1792, when Chambers-street was opened, it passed through the Burial Ground of the Africans
This and later similar road construction through cemeteries is referred to as "violations of the sanctity of the grave" by the board.