“Boneyarn: A Poetry Reading and Discussion about Slavery in New York City”
In this program, poet David Mills will read from and reflect upon the research behind his recent collection, Boneyarn, the first-ever book of poems about slavery in New York City. The city holds the oldest and largest slave cemetery in the United States—the African Burial Ground—which was open from 1712 to 1795 and is located in Wall Street’s shadows. Fifteen thousand enslaved and free Blacks, some Native Americans, and poor whites are buried there. Mills creatively “excavates” the tragedies and triumphs of New York’s enslaved and free Black community. He writes about those who toiled as cooks, childhood chimney sweeps, sailed the Atlantic, fought in the Revolutionary War, maintained African traditions when burying the dead, built the “wall” where Wall Street gets its name, and regrettably were dehumanized in life and sometimes desecrated in death. The collection also includes a suite of poems dedicated to Jupiter Hammon; born into slavery in New York, Hammon was the first Black poet published in North America.