In 1993, a glimpse into Newark’s history of enslavement was accidentally resurrected when New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) construction workers uncovered a nineteenth-century interracial burial ground. Despite public protests to halt construction and conduct an in-depth archaeological study, NJPAC officials continued construction, arguing that the site was not a “real” African burial ground. Highlighting the relationship between urban renewal, historic preservation, and Black land dispossession, this paper argues that Black Newarkers’ activism to define the Trinity Church Cemetery as an African burial ground served as a radical political act in legitimizing their place within an evolving Newark.

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