The Bethel Burying Ground was developed by Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in 1810, a time when African Americans who died were not buried in cemeteries but whose dead where relegated to “Potters Fields,” public lots that were traditionally untended, unregulated, over-crowded, and notoriously vulnerable to vandals and body snatchers. Archival records show that the estimated 3,000-5,000 interred represent the founding generations of this nation’s largest and most important African American population of the 18th and 19th centuries; linking the African American experience to Philadelphia’s role in the birth of the nation.
The Bethel Burying Ground lies under the current Weccacoe Playground in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood. In 2010, local historian Terry Buckalew brought the existence and history of Bethel Burying Ground to the attention of the City. In 2013, an archeological investigation confirmed the site’s history. That same year, the Philadelphia Historical Commission voted unanimously to designate this site as “historic” and subsequently list it on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.
The Bethel Burying Ground Historic Site Memorial Committee is committed to an inclusive process in the development of a purposeful portrayal of this site and will collect public input from these meetings to share with the artist(s) who will be responsible for the design of the Memorial. Please share your input on the Bethel Burying Ground Memorial below.