The African Burying Ground is located at Chestnut Street between Court and State Streets in downtown Portsmouth. If you were to map it using internet mapping products, you could use the address of 97 Chestnut Street which is a building in the middle of the block. The site is an outdoor, public cemetery/park, re-dedicated in 2015.

The Story

Many in the community wondered how Portsmouth's African Burying Ground could have been forgotten. During the 1700s when the Burying Ground was actively used, the area that is now Chestnut Street was the undeveloped outskirts of town. Over time, as Portsmouth grew during the late 1700s and throughout the 1800s, the African Burying Ground was paved over and built over and many forgot about its existence. Today, we recognize this important place as the only DNA-authenticated African Burying Ground in all of New England that dates to this era.

When the site was accidentally uncovered in 2003, the Portsmouth City Council appointed the African Burying Ground Committee and asked the group to determine how best to honor those buried on Chestnut Street. The Committee – comprised of representatives from the Seacoast African American Cultural Center, Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, Inc. and the Portsmouth community – worked diligently to carry out that charge. 

The African Burying Ground Committee, with the help and support of the community, the City Council, archaeological professionals and a nationally-known design team, completed the design for the African Burying Ground Memorial Park, We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten.  The new memorial park, completed in 2015, marks with dignity the location of this sacred place – not with headstones like the City’s other places of burial – but with a public place of reverence on this block of urban downtown street, in perpetuity, so that we will never again forget those buried beneath. 
Site History & Information

Additional Information

The Design

For photographs of the completed memorial and information about the design process, click here. And for the sculptural entry piece, click here.

Awards and Press Release Archive, click here.

Donations for Care and Maintenance

With the return of the remains to the burial vault and the erection of the individual works of art, the African Burying Ground Memorial Park “We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten" was completed in May 2015. The African Burying Ground Trust is a permanent trust, which is designed to continue to receive contributions that will be used for the maintenance of the site as well as educational and interpretative efforts. Donation information is below.
Pledge Form and Making a Contribution