NEW YORK — A cemetery that is considered the nation's most significant black burial ground is being restored a year after it was destroyed by vandals.
The cemetery at Rossville African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is in a community called Sandy Ground on Staten Island. Free black oystermen from Maryland established it in the early 1800s.
The community, which was a stop on the Underground Railroad, is a symbol of strength for many blacks today. Visitors have included poet Maya Angelou, the late author Alex Haley and civil rights activist Julian Bond.
Two teenage boys were charged in the vandalism. A $4,000 grant from the Sacred Sites fund of the New York Landmarks Conservancy will cover most of the restoration costs. The church is raising the remainder.
Sandy Ground became a haven for oystermen in the 1830s when they fled Maryland, where free slaves were barred from congregating and all oyster boats had to have a white navigator. Only a handful of the original families remain in the area, now dominated by townhouses.