The Catholic Roots of African American Christianity

November 4, 2022 | Church Life Journal

by Jeroen Dewulf | Church Life Journal

In October 1991, workers in Lower Manhattan accidentally discovered a burial ground dating back to the seventeenth century that contained the intact remains of 419 Black people. They were taken to Howard University for anthropological examination and, in 2003, returned to Manhattan to be solemnly reburied in what is now known as the African Burial Ground National Monument. Along the way they were honored in a series of tribute ceremonies, staring at Howard University’s Rankin Memorial Chapel and continuing to Maryland’s Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, the Mother African Union Church in Wilmington, the Mother Bethel A. M. E. Church in Philadelphia, the Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, and Liberty State Park in Jersey City. After an Arrival Ceremony at South and Wall Streets, where New York’s slave market used to be, they proceeded to the African Burial Ground Memorial Site, where a commemorative vigil took place before the final Public Tribute and Reinterment Ceremony on October 4, 2003. No memorial service at a Catholic church was included. This is unfortunate considering the likelihood that at least some of the people whose remains had been uncovered identified as Catholic.

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