Announcement: Planning Underway For Reburial Ceremony

Planning Underway for Reburial CeremonyThe Department of Anthropology is pleased to be partnering with St. Augustine Catholic Church and the Umoja Committee to provide a day of activities related to this historic event. We are seeking more community partners and interested parties, so please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to help or contribute to the efforts.

UPDATE: LATEST EVENT SCHEDULE

The public is invited to all of the events listed below, which will take place on Saturday, April 18th:

10 a.m.: Memorial mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church, 1210 Governor Nicholls Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

11 a.m.: Procession and second-line to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, accompanied by Tremé Brass Band. Leaving from Tomb of the Unknown Slave at St. Augustine.

11-12: Dedication of marker and sealing of tomb, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

12 Noon: Procession to Congo Square for "A Celebration of Remembering", hosted by the Umoja Committee. This family friendly event will include ceremonies honoring the ancestors, activities, music, and opportunities for socializing. More details to follow!

For more information about the St. Peter Street Cemetery and the human remains recovered from the site, check our archaeology blog for updates, at archaeologynews.uno.edu.

Don't forget the programming at the New Orleans Museum of Art throughout the coming months, including Dr. Grey Gundaker on "Ancestors, Remembrance, and Moral Force: Flashes of Spirit in Burial and Residential Settings", 6 p.m., on Friday April 17th. See more at www.noma.org.

PRELIMINARY ANNOUNCEMENT

The Department of Anthropology of the University of New Orleans, is currently making plans for the re-interment of human remains recovered in 1984 and 2011 from the site of the St. Peter Street Cemetery.  This cemetery, located in the French Quarter within the block bounded by St. Peter Street, Burgundy Street, Toulouse Street, and N. Rampart Street, was in use from approximately 1723 to 1789. It is currently unmarked, and the block has been developed with residences and businesses since the early nineteenth century.  Despite this fact, it now appears that very few bodies were moved when the cemetery was closed.  As this marks the burial place of a large portion of the city’s Colonial era population, including substantial numbers of people of African descent, many of whom were likely enslaved, along with peoples of both Native and European heritage, the cemetery is both a unique historic resource and one of profound spiritual and emotional significance.  The roughly contemporaneous African Burial Ground in New York City is now a National Monument, but the importance of the St. Peter Street Cemetery is relatively unknown, something that we hope to rectify.

We are seeking stakeholders and interested parties to join us in a celebration to honor those originally interred at St. Peter during a reburial event at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.  The Archdiocese of New Orleans has kindly made a vault available for this purpose there, and, given that all of those interred at the St. Peter Street site would have likely been baptized as Catholic and that St. Louis #1 was founded as the replacement of the St. Peter Street Cemetery, this seems like a logical destination for those remains.  We anticipate this taking place on Saturday, April 18th.  The details of the ceremony and associated events are still being planned, but we expect them to include both on-site and off-site activities. We envision at this stage a procession to the site on the morning of the 18th, a small ceremony at the grave site, and a larger public celebration to honor those reinterred afterwards.

We want this to be an inclusive event, though we also want to acknowledge that the majority of the human remains we have been able to document from the site so far are of African descent, and at least some of the individuals involved were likely born in Central and West Africa.  To bring attention to this fact, we are coordinating some of our efforts with the New Orleans Museum of Art, which is hosting an exhibition called Kongo Across the Waters in the spring.  There are going to be speakers and events at the museum tied to the exhibition, and they are going to help organize and publicize the reburial event.  We are also coordinating with the State Historic Preservation Office and Louisiana Division of Archaeology, and we are trying to reach out to descendent groups and other interested parties.  I hope that the event will serve as a positive effort that can prove beneficial to everyone involved.  I also hope that it will bring attention to the fact that the St. Peter Street site itself is endangered, with little oversight when there is construction on the block.

Additional information about the Kongo Across the Waters exhibition can be found on the NOMA website.

Please share this information with others who might be interested, and please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.  I can be reached via my email address.