Bones at Construction Site Might Have Been From Slaves

Thu September 18, 2003 - National Edition

PASSAIC, NJ (AP) Two individuals whose remains were accidentally unearthed last month at a school construction site might have been slaves, the Herald News of West Paterson reported.

Archaeologists have found bits of coffins and nails recently outside Martin Luther King Jr. elementary school, according to a statement released by the Schools Construction Corp.

The findings have rekindled a debate that began more than 10 years ago when amateur historian Mark Auerbach found a reference to a slave burial ground behind the school.

Black leaders wanted to erect a memorial if the site were proven to be a burial ground. But the school district did not have the funds for a full probe, especially without hard evidence that anyone was buried there.

Now, district officials have changed their minds.

Schools Superintendent Robert H. Holster said he wants to record a documentary about the excavation.

Despite the halt on outside construction at the school, students had their first day of school Sept. 3.

Authorities will continue to excavate the site. Holster said he is not sure who will pay for the project, but that he hopes the money will come from the state, not the district.