On the East End’s African-American Burial Grounds: How is the Story Told?

A marker for the burial ground at Sylvester Manor.
A marker for the burial ground at Sylvester Manor.

Sag Harbor’s Eastville Community Historical Society and Shelter Island’s Sylvester Manor educational farm are teaming up this weekend for a discussion at Bay Street Theatre on the stories of African American East Enders that have “been hidden, forgotten, untold, fragmented and/or fabricated.”

The panel discussion, exhibition and reception, titled “How Is the Story Told? An Observance of East End African-American Burying Grounds,” will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21.

According to the Eastville Historical Society, the discussion is in keeping with this year’s Black History Month theme: Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.

Sunday’s symposium “will be a multimedia program exploring death in the African Diaspora from numerous perspectives, bringing together educators, archaeologists, preservationists and artists to reveal cultural adaptation and resilience throughout African-American history,” according to information provided by the Eastville Historical Society.

“We pay tribute to generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship rights in life by honoring their varied stories in death. The importance of remembering and telling the story of our past enables us to celebrate our shared history and future,” the museum adds. “By taking account of the sensitivity and sacred nature of burial grounds, we use this discussion as a springboard for re-creating what was invisible, visible. The authenticity of evoked emotion is dependent upon telling the stories, making connections to individuals, mapping social diversity, global connection, and pathways to cultural co-existence and diversity.”

The presentation will include information about burial ground sites on Shelter Island and in Sag Harbor, East Hampton and Southampton, and the work being done to preserve these grave sites.

Sunday’s pop-up exhibition is curated by Donnamarie Barnes.

The panel presentation and discussion will include Stephen Mrozowski, Ph.D. of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm and Fiske Center for Archaeological Research, Southampton Town Historian Zach Studenroth, The Periwinkle Initiative and Burial Database Project of Enslaved African Americans founder Sandra Arnold, historian Georgette Grier-Key of the Eastville Community Historical Society and East Hampton Town Nature Preserve Committee Chair Zachary Cohen.

The panel will be moderated by SUNY Old Westbury journalism professor Karl Grossman.

Tickets to the event are $20 for adults and $10 in pre-sale for seniors, students and veterans. All tickets are $20 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Sylvester Manor’s website here.

The Bay Street Theatre is located at 1 Bay Street at the foot of Long Wharf in Sag Harbor.

The Eastville Community Historical Society will also be holding an opening this Saturday, Feb. 20 for the exhibition “Black Memorabilia: Images and Icons.”

The items in this exhibit are from the private collections of Dr. Martin A. Butler and his brother, artist Michael A. Butler. While in graduate school, Dr. Butler happened upon a Black-owned antique store that sold a wide variety of Black memorabilia. He felt that by purchasing these objects he was somehow buying back Black culture.

The wide variety of exhibited items will span over a century of images that include Mammies, ephemera, marionettes, and action figures. The opening is on Feb. 20 from 5 to 7 p.m., and the Eastville Community Historical Society is located at 139 Hampton Street in Sag Harbor.


Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you're human: