MLK HS in Passaic needed more space and 2003 an 8 million construction project began. Workers dug up human bones, halting construction. construction began on a project to build 23 pre-K classrooms. The site has been surmised to be home to a slave cemetery for years, most recently in 1992 when city historian Mark Auerbach uncovered evidence indicating as such. County Historian Edward Smyk says not so fast. “it’s not unusual for bodies, in an area that is so heavily populated, to be excavated. When people died, particularly slaves or people who didn’t have prominence, they were just buried in a plot that the landowner had and then were forgotten.”
An archaeologist from the NJ State Museum examined the site and found more bones. The school superintendent said he would not stop construction. He was investigating because the school asked him to, and he would only do what he was asked and no more. The land on which the school sits was once owned by Hartmann Vreeland, one of the earliest settlers of the Passaic area, and like many of the settlers he owned slaves. William Scott, author of “Passaic & It’s Environs” wrote of a slave burial ground between Madison St & Bartlett Place. The Vreeland family members were buried in plots in the Low Dutch Protestant Reformed Church of Acquackanonk on River Dr. It is believed his slaves were buried here on the property.
Official hope to put up a plaque or memorial in memory of the dead.