Cemetery with dozens of slaves, freed slaves rededicated

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UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. (AP) — A slave cemetery in New Jersey has been rededicated following restoration efforts after it was damaged during Superstorm Sandy.

The Rev. Ella Hayes was among those who presided over the rededication Sunday of the Hopper Slave Cemetery in Upper Saddle River, The Record reported (http://bit.ly/2f39XKO).

Hayes said the “bittersweet” rededication recognizes the contributions of African-Americans in building Bergen County. He called the site “sacred ground.”

The plot, owned by the Upper Saddle River Historical Society, contains the remains of up to 50 slaves and freed slaves.

The Rev. Robert Fretz said those buried in the graveyard worked for the Hopper family — early Dutch settlers who were among the area’s largest landholders and owned an 18th-century sawmill on the Saddle River.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy downed trees at the cemetery and destroyed a wrought iron fence, along with many grave markers.

Donors covered a new fence at the site, which is only accessible through a private driveway. A local Boy Scout made restoring the cemetery his Eagle Scout project last year.

Slaves were first brought to the state by the Dutch in the 1600s. New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery, beginning the “gradual abolition” of the practice in 1804, but not fully outlawing it until 1846.

“Their history is not memorialized in books but, thanks to you, it’s memorialized here,” Anthony Cureton, president of the Bergen County NAACP, told the crowd during the rededication ceremony.

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