Massive African-American Cemetery Discovered

A Philadelphia playground is the site of a 19th-century grave site -- owned by the nation's oldest African-American church -- where prominent black folks of the era were buried.

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Archaeologists digging on the grounds of a Philadelphia playground have found evidence of a 200-year-old grave site that the Mother Bethel African Methodist Epicopal Church purchased in 1810 because Philadelphia cemeteries would not accept black people.

Among the estimated 3,000 laid to rest there were prominent African-American folk of that era, the Huffington Post reports:

Mother Bethel is the oldest African-American church in the country, researchers say. During the late 18th century, cemeteries within Philadelphia's city limits would not accept black people, which prompted the congregation to purchase the plot near Fourth and Queen streets.

During a dig at the playground last week, a team of archaeologists broke the asphalt in four places at Weccecoe Park, looking for clues as to where the cemetery limits are, and how far down, NBC Philadelphia reports. The dig took them three feet down, revealing evidence of grave shafts and stone walls representing the border of the cemetery.

According to Philly magazine contributor Michael Coard, those buried at the site include Ignatius Beck, who helped construct the U.S. Capitol in 1789, abolitionist Sarah Bass Allen and civil rights pioneer Caroline LaCount, among numerous black Civil War veterans.

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