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Ground Zero's distant past: Before Little Syria, a burial ground for slaves


Photo by Wally Gobetz/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A plaque outside New York's Civic Center in Lower Manhattan, a few blocks from Ground Zero

Earlier this week, in a post about the so-called Ground Zero mosque, I highlighted a great post from KPCC contributor Marc Haefele on the history of the Ground Zero site in Lower Manhattan, lately tied to a vociferous controversy over the planned construction of an Islamic cultural center a couple of blocks from the location of the former World Trade Center. In the post, he described the area's history a century ago as Manhattan's old Arab District, referred to then as "Little Syria."

Mother Jones has now peeled away another layer of the historical onion, pointing out that before Little Syria existed, Lower Manhattan was the place where African slaves were buried. From the story:


A different take on mosque controversy: Ground Zero site was once 'Manhattan's old Arab District'

The controversy continues to rage over the Park51 site, where an Islamic cultural center is being planned a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero in New York (where protesters, seen above, clashed yesterday). Meanwhile, smaller-town protesters have been rallying against mosques under development from Temecula to Tennessee, and a shockingly large percentage of Americans have told pollsters that they think the president of the United States is Muslim.

So in the midst of all this, it was refreshing to come across this terrific post by veteran journalist Marc Haefele, published this morning on 89.3 KPCC Off-Ramp host John Rabe's blog. Haefele, Off-Ramp's literary and cultural commentator, delves into the long-ago history of the Ground Zero site, which may surprise some given the site's more recent past and what's happening today. From the post: