Past Event

Sunday Afternoon at Elmendorf

March 3, 2024
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
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Elmendorf Reformed Church: 171 E. 121st St.

Founded in 1660, Elmendorf Reformed Church is the oldest church in Harlem, and the home church of the Harlem African Burial Ground. Through research into its records, the church has identified more than 40 names of those buried at the site.

Learn this Black history—and the future of the burial ground—during an afternoon of jazz, gospel and blues at Elmendorf.

You'll be treated to the Antoinette Montague Experience, featuring Antoinette Montague (vocals), Bobby Sanabria (drums), Danny Mixon (piano), Melissa Slocum (bass) and A.C. Lincoln (tap).

The church is located at 171 East 121st Street, between Third & Lexington avenues.

This event is hosted by Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala in partnership with Elmendorf Reformed Church, Uptown Grand Central, and the NYC Economic Development Corporation's Harlem African Burial Ground Initiative. Learn more below.

The History

The village of Nieuw Haarlem (Harlem) was established in 1660. The Low Dutch Reformed Church (predecessor of today’s Elmendorf Reformed Church) was its founding place of worship. The church maintained two cemeteries: One for people of European descent and another for people of African descent.

For more than two centuries, New Yorkers of African descent were buried at the Harlem African Burial Ground. They played a crucial role in the early history of the city, and their history is New York City and Harlem’s history.

The burial ground land was sold in the mid-1800s. Those buried in the European cemetery were relocated to new plots, while those at the Harlem African Burial Ground were left behind. Increasing urbanization caused severe displacement and desecration to the burial ground, with the site later becoming a beer garden and casino, the barracks of the 15th New York National Guard Infantry Regiment, the Third Avenue Railway Company trolley barn, and by 1947, the MTA's 126th Street Bus Depot.

The historic footprint of the Harlem African Burial Ground is located in East Harlem at East 126th Street between First and Second avenues, within the site where the decommissioned 126th Street Bus Depot stands today.

A little more than a decade ago, the Harlem African Burial Ground Task Force (now called the Harlem African Burial Ground Initiative) was founded to advocate for the creation of a memorial that would restore honor, dignity and respect to those buried at the site. In 2015, archaeologists commissioned by NYC Economic Development Corporation uncovered disarticulated human remains of at least two people, likely of African descent, at the bus depot site -- conclusively establishing the burial ground’s location within it. The next phase of archaeological work will establish the complete distribution of the human remains across the site.

This archaeological work is an early step toward the vision for redeveloping the bus depot site to honor and memorialize the Harlem African Burial Ground through a new outdoor memorial and indoor cultural education center.

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