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GSA Celebrates Dedication of African Burial Ground Memorial

GSA #10411

October 5, 2007                   
Contact: Renee Miscione, (212) 264-8260                                               

MaryAnne  Beatty, (202) 501-1231

NEW YORK –  A distinctive memorial commemorating and communicating the story of the African Burial Ground – a national monument and the single-most important, historic urban archaeological project undertaken in the U.S. – was unveiled today announced the U.S. General Services Administration.

“This work by architect Rodney Léon pays a graceful tribute to origin and culture, and yet is contemporary and powerful enough to engage and inspire this generation and all that will follow,” said GSA Administrator Lurita Doan, during a dedication ceremony in lower Manhattan.

The ceremony marked another key milestone in an amazing story that began in 1991, when, during excavation work for a new federal office building, workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women and children.  Further investigation revealed that during the 17th and 18th centuries, 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, which would become New York. Over the decades, the unmarked cemetery was covered over by development and landfill.

Administrator Doan said the overall project is a testimonial to a positive and collaborative partnership between many parties, including the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Howard University, members of Congress and the descendent community. 

One of the five designers selected from a pool of 61 applicants, Mr. Léon responded to an initial call for proposals in 1998.  Mr. Léon delivers “a quiet masterpiece that amends the record with precision and clarity on behalf of the men, women and children of the African Burial Ground,” said Administrator Doan. “Today, we celebrate an achievement we can see and touch, a monument that better informs the history of this great nation,” she said.

For more information about GSA’s African Burial Ground project, visit


Founded in 1949, GSA serves as a centralized procurement and property management agency for the federal government. GSA manages more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars and influences the management of $500 billion in federal assets, including 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings and 208,000 vehicles. GSA helps preserve our past and define our future, as a steward of more than 425 historic properties, and as manager of, the official portal to federal government information and services. GSA’s mission to provide superior workplaces, expert technology solutions, acquisition services, purchasing and E-Gov travel solutions and management policies, at best value, allows federal agencies to focus on their core missions.

Did You Know? The Sankofa symbol, used in the Memorial, is from the Akan people of west Africa and means, "We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today."

Last Reviewed 2010-04-30