-- Harambee establishes a conservation easement with the Kingston Land Trust to forever protect the sacred site--
Today, title to the site of the African Burial Ground on Pine Street in Kingston was transferred to the African-American heritage organization, Harambee, from the Kingston Land Trust (KLT) with a conservation easement granted by Harambee to the KLT to protect the site in perpetuity. This protection ensures that the ancestors buried there will never again be forgotten. The two nonprofit organizations successfully led a campaign to bring history to light and purchased the site in 2019 in collaboration with Scenic Hudson, thanks to overwhelming community support. With this new arrangement of ownership and protection, Harambee and the KLT, will continue to remain in partnership in service of the site and the public good.
Records of the site date back to 1750 when the trustees of Kingston identified a section of the common area outside the walled settlement of Kingston to be used as a burial ground for enslaved Africans, who at the time were denied church burial. The site’s unofficial use for this purpose may date back even further. In the mid 1800s the land was portioned off into private property and used first as a lumberyard and then as a private residence. By the time Harambee and the KLT set out to raise awareness about the site’s existence, there were no remaining above-ground indicators of the burial ground, betraying the existence of the hundreds of graves still contained within. Now, under Harambee’s leadership, this approximately half-acre historic site at 157 Pine Street and 149-153 Rear Pine is finally receiving due recognition and will become a memorial site for the community.
“‘It's a new dawn, it's a new day,’ from the voice of our beloved queen, Nina Simone,” says Tyrone Wilson, Executive Director of Harambee. “This is the day that the Lord has made--we will rejoice and be glad in it. Harambee would like to thank all parties who helped make this day possible. We have defined the meaning of our tagline, the Coming Together of People, by working together for a common goal of protecting and preserving this sacred ground. This land is our ancestors’ final resting place and they can surely rejoice that they are now officially in the care of their own, and we can now create a space of education on their sacrifices that allowed us to be here today. We will not let their work and death go in vain; what a monumental day today is. Thank you all for putting land back into Black hands.”
As a land trust, the Kingston Land Trust has the unique power to acquire conservation easements granted by Article 49, Title 3, of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law. Harambee identified the KLT as the appropriate land trust to hold a conservation easement for the Pine Street African Burial Ground due to the alliance built between KLT and Harambee during the joint campaign to protect the site in 2019. The conservation easement was written collaboratively by the Kingston Land Trust and Harambee over the past year, with guidance from Scenic Hudson. Plans for the terms of transfer of ownership and the conservation easement were presented by all three organizations to the community for feedback at a public meeting held at the Ulster County Restorative Justice Center in February 2020.
“The Kingston Land Trust is honored to serve the Kingston community, Harambee, and the ancestors resting at the Pine Street African Burial Ground by holding this unique conservation easement that prioritizes cultural conservation values. We hope our partnership with Harambee will inspire other communities across the nation to approach their local land trusts to collaborate in the protection, prioritization and recognition of vulnerable African-American heritage sites. Collaborations such as ours acknowledge the history of slavery in our country and work to heal wounds and promote racial justice today,” says Julia Farr, Executive Director of the Kingston Land Trust.
The primary purpose of the conservation easement is to give legal protections to the land and the ancestors buried there, which will ensure the Burial Ground is never again forgotten, disrespected or used for any inappropriate purpose. It will also maintain the Burial Ground as a place for the community to visit as a memorial for interpretive cultural education. The easement will forever protect the site’s specific cultural, social, historic and environmental conservation values as a place of gathering, ritual, ceremony and archeological significance.
"The disregard of the Pine Street African Burial Ground due to an expanding Kingston in the 19th century is a painful local example of one of the many injustices of slavery and racism in our country,” says Seth McKee, Land Conservation Director of Scenic Hudson. “Scenic Hudson applauds the dedicated, focused work of Harambee and the Kingston Land Trust in securing the future of this site to honor the memories and narratives of the enslaved people who are buried there. We were happy to support their efforts, which we believe can be a model of how communities can come together to right historical wrongs while conserving important lands forever.”
The Burial Ground serves an important educational role as physical evidence that helps to tell the story of the inhumane system of slavery that existed in New York State. The majority of the Burial Ground has remained undisturbed and retains its historic integrity. The Burial Ground also has social value as open space with potential to be one of the only publicly accessible green spaces in Midtown Kingston. The City of Kingston’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan and its Open Space Plan both call for more green space, pocket parkets, and urban agriculture, specifically in the Midtown neighborhood where the Burial Ground is found.
Even before today’s official transfer of ownership, Harambee has had full access to and leadership at the site. With support from the Kingston Land Trust and other organizations and volunteers, the grounds have been cleaned up from decades of neglect and a community-based design process for use of the space was initiated in 2019. Garden beds and log-stools were installed this summer and African heritage crops were grown, all with the support of the Kingston Land Trust, KaN Landscape Design, Grow Well Kingston, the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, Youth Design team and other community volunteers. The KLT commissioned monitoring and pruning of the site’s massive locust trees identified by the community as a compelling natural link to history. Harambee is renovating the house for future programming and will continue to implement aspects of the design proposed last March by the Pine Street African Burial Ground Youth Design Team into their plans to convert this residential backyard containing the burial ground into a memorial site that is open to the public.
Harambee and the Kingston Land Trust are raising funds to co-produce a short documentary film with Growing Films to tell the story of the history, protection process, and future of the Burial Ground. This educational film will then be shared to inspire people in our region, as well as those mounting similar efforts across the United States, now and in future generations.
Scenic Hudson preserves land and farms and creates parks that connect people with the inspirational power of the Hudson River, while fighting threats to the river and the natural resources that are the foundation of prosperity in the Hudson Valley. To learn more, visit scenichudson.org
Learn more about the Pine Street African Burial Ground and view the Youth Design Team’s proposed designs at www.
To make a donation to the film fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/f/pine-st-
February 25 2021: Executive Director of Harambee, Tyrone Wilson, signs the transfer documents and conservation easement at the closing ceremony at the Pine Street African Burial Ground.
February 25 2021: Members of Harambee, the Kingston Land Trust and Scenic Hudson join together in ceremony for the closing at the Pine Street African Burial Ground.
March 2020: Pine Street African Burial Ground Youth Design Team presented their proposed design at a community meeting at the Ulster County Restorative Justice Center, hosted by the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, Harambee, Kingston Land Trust, KaN Landscape Design, with support from the City of Kingston.
Summer 2020: Members of Harambee and the Youth Design Team prepare garden beds to grow African heritage crops in the rear lot of the Pine Street African Burial Ground.