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Visiting scholar discusses African Burial Ground

Nov. 8, 2010

KALAMAZOO--It was in 1991 when workers doing excavation work for a new federal office building in lower Manhattan made a surprising discovery--the skeletal remains of what ended up totaling more than 400 buried men, women and children.

That discovery and ensuing research of what was later determined to be a burial ground for free and enslaved Africans will be the subject when a visiting anthropologist speaks next week at Western Michigan University.

Dr. Warren Perry, professor of anthropology at Central Connecticut State University and director of the Archaeology Lab for African and African Diaspora Studies at CCSU will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, in Room 1115 of Moore Hall. His presentation is titled "The Archaeology of New York's African Burial Ground" and is free and open to the public.

The U.S. General Services Agency African Burial Ground project began shortly after the skeletal remains were discovered at the corner of Duane and Elk streets. Investigation revealed that during the 17th and 18th centuries, free and enslaved Africans were buried in a 6.6 acre parcel outside of what was then the settlement of New Amsterdam.

Over the decades, the unmarked cemetery was covered over by development and landfill. Today the site is a national monument featuring a distinctive memorial that commemorates and communicates the story of the African Burial Ground, which has been called the single-most important, historic urban archaeological project undertaken in the United States.

Perry earned his doctoral degree from the City University of New York in 1996 and was director of archaeology for the burial ground project. He currently conducts research on several projects related to race and archaeology in Connecticut.

Perry's visit is sponsored by the WMU Department of Anthropology, the Lewis Walker Institute for Race and Ethnic Relations and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. He is being brought here through the WMU Visiting Scholars and Artists Program.

Established in 1960, the Visiting Scholars and Artists Program significantly contributes to the intellectual life of WMU and the community. The program provides funds for academic units to bring distinguished scholars and artists to campus. These visitors meet with faculty and students in their fields and address the community at large.

Since the program began, it has supported more 600 visits by scholars and artists representing more than 60 academic disciplines.

For more information on Perry's presentation, call the WMU Department of Anthropology at (269) 387-3969. More information on the African Burial Ground National Monument is available online at nps.gov/afbg.

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Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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