Historic Philadelphia Burial Site Under Playground To Honor 5,000 Freed Slaves With New Memorial

Philadelphia’s Weccacoe Playground will soon transform into a historic memorial in honor of thousands of freed black slaves.

Discovered in 2008 by historian Terry Buckalew and later named as a National Register of Historic Places, the community playground originally served as an African American Burial Ground for members of the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church — which was purchased by the church in 1810. Archaeologists believe an estimated 5,000 freed black slaves are buried 18 inches beneath the concrete, according to the Associated Press.

Now after years of deliberating amongst community members, last month city officials announced plans to renovate a section of the playground into the Bethel Burying Ground Historic Site.

“This is an opportunity to fix something that fell off of our radar, and it’s a teachable moment for these young children,” Leslie Patterson-Tyler tells the Associated Press. Patterson-Tyler’s husband, Rev. Mark Tyler, is currently the pastor of Mother Bethel AME. “It’s already a gathering place, so let’s continue to gather in this place and talk about what was.”

The Associated Press reports, construction of the historical site — which will be located in Philly’s Queen Village neighborhood — will require the dismantling of a “well-used” community center to make way for the memorial.

Rev. Mark Tyler went on to note that he hopes the Bethel Burying Ground Historic Site will inspire thought-provoking dialogue amongst all parents and children.

“I think that would be a wonderful way to honor the ancestors who are buried there,” he said to the Associated Press. “To help these children write a new and better American story.”

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