Students and historians rediscover a lost slave burial ground at Drake Park in the Bronx

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- A black and white photograph taken at the turn of the 20th century still reverberates today in the Bronx.

On the front, rough-hewn gravestones in a patch of grass; on the back, simple text written in cursive: "Slave burying ground Hunts Point Road."

More than 100 years after it was taken, the photograph has inspired a group of teachers, students and historians to research and rediscover a lost slave burial ground at Drake Park.

Philip Panaritis, a retired official with the Department of Education, and Justin Czarka, an elementary school teacher at nearby P.S. 48, got the ball rolling in 2014.

Using the long-lost photo as a jumping off point, Panaritis helped coordinate an archeological survey with ground-penetrating radar, which confirmed the presence of coffins below ground. Czarka and his students fleshed out the historical details using primary documents.

This year, Professor Adam Arenson, of Manhattan College, began offering a course - Slavery in the Bronx - that includes field trips to the Drake Park burial ground.

Speaking to ABC7 on a rainy day in Drake Park, Czarka points to the burial site. "Underneath that ground is a piece of history," he says. "There are 10 to 40 enslaved African Americans, people who worked hard for the city, who have been forgotten. We are hoping to find ways to have them be remembered by Hunt's Point and the rest of New York City."

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