We seek to better understand African-American ties to Africa and the rest of the world, ties that slavery and continued misinformation have partly severed in our perceptions of the world. In the words of W.E.B. DuBois, we seek to understand "the world that was, the world that is, and our relationship to it." These ancestral remains from New York have given us a window on that world.
     These issues are particularly timely in the United States under the current political climate and the Clinton Presidency. This President has proposed a national effort to examine and combat racism. Elucidation of the history of slavery is an explicit component of that examination. Our project can help in that national self-discovery. Both the President and Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio) have initiated discussion of a Governmental apology for slavery. But that proposal has done far more to expose the continuing racism and denial of white America than it has demonstrated readiness for self-criticism, atonement, and healing. Polls show that two-thirds of Euro-Americans see no reason to apologize for slavery. Letters to Congressman Hall show that many whites believe that Blacks should be grateful that slavery afforded them a better, civilized life; that the descendants of slave-holders are most deserving of an apology and reparations (in fact, the Federal Government paid remuneration to some slave-holders for their slaves during the Civil War); or that the American Civil War (fought to maintain a unified nation and industrial development, with or without slavery) was apology enough. Descendants of Post-Civil War immigrants disavow any responsibility for an apology, disregarding the privileges that white racism, forged by slavery, have afforded them. Our research may help clarify some of the misperceptions that currently impede an understanding of slavery and its legacy.


Now, three years from completion, some general findings have come to light. During the eighteenth century, the vast majority of Africans in New York were enslaved. At least one-third of those forced to migrate to New York were brought directly from the African continent. Most of the remainder had spent some period of time enslaved in the Caribbean prior to shipment. Our craniometric measurements of the sample of twenty-seven skulls that were sufficiently complete for this analysis, distributed across the entire length of the site, show that all have facial and head dimensions that are more similar to the tropical peoples of the western and central regions of that continent than they are to any other African, European, or Native American populations. The analysis of the ten styles of dental modification is not complete, but we have seen Ashanti skulls with the same styles and comparable styles in skulls from central Africa.


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August 2000