ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Lifting our voices in a mighty chorus, / we pay tribute to our ancestors before us. Individual coffins carved by hand, / were fittingly commissioned from the homeland.



African Burial Ground

By Linda Mayfield-Hayes


In New York City, May of 1991, construction of a federal building had begun. As excavators started removing stones, they dug up a graveyard full of human bones. Archaeologists were brought in to exhume the graves, and discovered these were the remains of African slaves. Slaves that cleared shorelines,

and built New York’s first roads, incurring premature deaths

from carrying crushing workloads. The information gathered from this discovery, will help us to secure our place in New York’s history. Listen to the ringing of the old church bell, as we bid our forefathers, a proper farewell. African Americans dance in the streets, to the thunderous sound of pounding drumbeats. Lifting our voices in a mighty chorus, we pay tribute to our ancestors before us. Individual coffins carved by hand, were fittingly commissioned from the homeland. Their bones were reburied, their souls finally free, on the fourth of October 2003.

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DNA: DestiNation Africa

 By Linda Mayfield-Hayes

Let me take you on a ride We’ll travel through time and space Destination Africa Birthplace of the human race; We’ll journey back to Africa To where it all began Home of the oldest tribe on Earth Known as the San Bushman; All aboard the time machine Otherwise known as our blood We’ll have no trouble getting around With Y-Chromosomes under the hood; We’re going to trace man’s origin And the clues that will lead the way Are mutated genetic markers That are found in men’s DNA; Through Europe, Asia, The Middle East Our blood trail takes us back Showing all men paternally related Be they red, yellow, brown, white or black; So brothers, stop killing your brothers Put your weapons down today For the proof that we’re all related Lies in our DNA.

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Linda Diane Mayfield is the author of AFROETRY: Afrocentric Poetry that Educates & Motivates. She is an aspiring poetess who grew up in the Red Hook housing projects, of Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Kingsborough Community College with an Associate in Applied Science degree in Data Processing. Linda began writing poetry in her early teens, but soon abandoned her craft. She didn’t lift her poetic pen again until 2003, almost forty years later. Today, she is the author of three collections of poetry including, “Life Is A Roller Coaster” and “Life Is A Roller Coaster 2”. Her websites are

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The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883 

Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America

African American Grief (Death, Dying and Bereavement)

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Woman brings buried slaves dignity—25 Feb. 2011—Slaves dead more than two centuries find a champion in a local woman.—Known as slaves in life, they slept unknown for centuries in New York City. A woman from Albany started a course that brought them dignity in death. Albany native Peggy King-Jorde spoke at the Albany Civil Rights Institute Thursday on the reclamation of a massive “African burial bround” from government office development.

“There were 10,000 to 20,000 African-Americans buried in New York at this site from the 17th through the 18th centuries,” King-Jorde said. “Then it was forgotten about.” The cemetery sat on 5 1/2 acres just outside the city limits starting in the 1700s. Blacks were not allowed to be buried in the city limits. By the 18th century, the slave population in New York had grown to about 20 percent of the entire city. Only one city had a higher percentage of slaves, Charleston, S.C. So when slaves died, bodies were piled one on top of the other in graves without markers until the site was paved over and the city grew around it. . . .

In 1993, the African Burial Ground was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2003 the unearthed remains were reburied. . . .King-Jorde credits the work of the community, activists, students and ordinary people for preserving a part of American history. “It is critical that we know as much as we can about our African ancestry,” King-Jorde said. “There is so little known about slavery on these shores at that time. That many slaves in New York City? Who heard of it?”—AlbanyHerald

The skeleton above is the only one of more than 400 recovered to have her arms crossed over her chest. Researchers want to know why. Adults buried in the cemetery died in their 30s, on average, although their joints resembled those of people much older.

The Cultural Dimensions of Design—The first enslaved Africans were brought to what is now New York City (then a Dutch settlement) in 1626. By the 1700s, after the Duke of York had officially opened up the slave trade, a substantial slave population—as much as 21 percent of the whole—lived in Manhattan. The place where these enslaved Africans buried their dead, the “Negros Burying Ground,” as it was derisively known, was initially located outside the city walls. By the late 1700s, however, development was already covering over portions of the graveyard. Eventually, the burial ground was all but forgotten, its location preserved to memory only through old city maps and references in two books, one published in 1827, the other in 1915. . . . Perhaps cultural amnesia explains why many New Yorkers “were shocked to learn there were enslaved people–here, in the North, and in large numbers,” King Jorde says. “It wasn’t well chronicled. The cemetery was buried under buildings in the city. It wasn’t important to other people so its presence was obscured. African ancestry in this country has historically been obscured. Places like the African Burial Ground, places like American Beach, those are the cultural resources, the tangible reminders that tie our black community to the important values of our culture.”—


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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 26 February 2011




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