Guest Post: Reclaiming a Buried Past: Slavery, Memory, Public History, and Portsmouth’s African Burying Ground

Jessica Parr received her PhD from the University of New Hampshire at Durham in 2012. Her research interests are race and religion in the Early Modern British Atlantic. Her first book, Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon is forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi (2015). She currently teaches at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester. This is her second guest post for The Junto.

It was a scene that has been repeated in several American cities. In 2003, during an infrastructure project, 13 coffins containing unidentified human remains were found in Portsmouth, NH. Eight of the remains were exhumed for examination and confirmed as being of African descent, and later as part of a 1705 African Burying Ground, once on the city’s outskirts. As Portsmouth expanded, burying ground was built over and largely forgotten. Five additional sets of remains were found in 2008 during an archaeological dig on the site. Experts believe that 200 or more burials could have taken place in this 1705 African Burying Ground.[1]  Continue reading