ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In the 1860s, Irish immigrants to the U.S. were a socially marginalized religious and ethnic group.
The St. Agnes Cemetery in Albany is regulated by the Catholic Diocese of Albany, and was created to give that community a respectable place to honor their dead.
Saturday, they extended that same honor to 14 African-American slaves who passed away over 150 years ago.
“Here, many communities have come together,” said Jonathan Cohen, spokesman for the Albany Diocesan Cemeteries. “The Catholic community, the African-American community, and they have found a way to appropriately honor these 14 individuals and give them the right of burial and remembrance that they deserve; and which helps us come together as neighbors and Americans.”
Cohen says the gathering and ceremony Saturday was held out of respect and reverence of all life.
The 14 people honored Saturday were owned by General Philip Schuyler, a hero of the Revolutionary War. Their remains were found during a construction project in Colonie. Now they’re being laid to rest in style.
Cordelle Reaves, with the Schyler Flats Burial Project says each of the 14 reliquaries is completely unique and hand-made.
“Each one is meant to be an artistic tribute to each of the people we are burying,” said Reaves. “To give them a level of dignity and honor that they wouldn’t have received in life.”
Over 100 people from all corners of the Capital Region came together to honor these 14 African-Americans; six women, five infants, two children and one man who can now truly rest side-by-side.
“We can’t just pull out the threads from the tapestry of history and expect the entire thing to hang together,” said Reaves. “It doesn’t make sense if you remove entire people and entire events from the story just because they might be inconvenient truths. So we need to teach the entire story, accept the entire story, and then we can accept each other as a result of that.”
Reaves says that a lot of people think of slavery as a divisive and negative part of America’s history; but through this project, he says it is a history that has brought different ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds together to honor these 14 people, unifying the Capital Region’s historic community.
For more on the Schuyler Flats Burial Project visit: http://schuylerflattsburialground.blogspot.com/