The New Museum sits on unceded Indigenous land, specifically the homeland of the Lenape peoples. We acknowledge the genocide and continued displacement of Indigenous peoples during the colonial era and beyond. The island of Mannahatta in Lenapehoking has long been a gathering place for Indigenous people to trade and maintain kinship ties. Today, these communities continue to contribute to the life of this city and to celebrate their heritage, practice traditions, and care for the land and waterways as sacred.
We would like to particularly thank the Lenape Center for their guidance in creating this land acknowledgment. This is a living land acknowledgment, and we will continue to revise and strengthen it in collaboration with community members.
We acknowledge the significant history of African Americans on and around the Bowery. Manhattan’s first free Black settlement was on the Bowery. Active centers of abolitionist work at 134 and 136 Bowery were associated with the Underground Railroad, and Abraham Lincoln’s famous anti-slavery speech, “Right Makes Might” was delivered at Cooper Union in 1860.
In 1795, the second African American burial ground was built at 195-197 Chrystie Street, to the east of the New Museum (See map below). The entrance was reputedly on Freeman’s Alley, which may speak to the origins of the name of the lane. The burial ground was part of a larger cemetery network for the growing city that extended up and down Chrystie Street. In the 1850s, the cemetery was exhumed, along with many others in the area, and relocated to Cypress Hill Cemetery in Brooklyn. Today the African American burial ground is commemorated in the M’Finda Kalunga Garden located in Sara Roosevelt Park on Chrystie Street.
In 2006, when the New Museum was doing excavation work, which included underpinnings on the adjacent lot, bone fragments were found embedded in a wall on the west end of the 195-197 Chrystie Street property. New York Landmarks Commission was notified, and archaeologists were called in. Their report is here. St. Philips Church consecrated the remains, and they were reinterred at Cypress Hill.
We would like to particularly thank Dr. Mabel O. Wilson for her guidance in creating this site heritage narrative. This is a living site heritage, and we will continue to revise and strengthen it in collaboration with community members.