Fordham’s Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans, a portal for the public to submit locations suspected of being the site of unmarked graves of slaves, went live today.
The database, which is located at www.vanishinghistory.org, was launched on the 150 anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in the United States.
In a recent ceremony at Fordham’s Lincoln Center Campus, Sandra Arnold, a history student in Fordham’s School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS) who is spearheading the project, thanked everyone who helped make the site a reality.
“In my research on slave burial grounds, I’ve learned that in almost every society in the world, the burial ground of a loved one is considered sacred. The place where the deceased is buried is a symbol, or a monument that the person that lies in that grave meant something to someone, were cared for, and that they were missed,” she said.
"I’ve also learned to believe there are no insignificant people in history, and that all people had a role in shaping in shaping history. Therefore I also believe all people should be remembered.”
Members of the Department of African and African American Studies such as Irma Watkins-Owens, Ph.D., associate professor of history and African American studies, and co-director of the database project, were also on hand for a celebratory champagne toast.
“The launching of this project comes at a really important historical moment. Not only is it timely because this year is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation; it is also a moment of some urgency, because many of these burial spaces of enslaved people are rapidly vanishing in the memories of the descendents as well as the memories of the communities,” she said.
“This is a real call to the public to help us to identify and place these spaces in the historical record.”
For more on Fordham’s African American Slave Burial Database, read the article in Inside Fordham.