Centuries after they died and were largely forgotten, the remains of 14 slaves that were found by construction workers will be reburied near the Hudson River in New York.
The slaves had been laid to rest in simple pine boxes, probably in the 18th or early 19th centuries — no one knows for sure.
In June, they will be publicly memorialized and buried in personalized, handcrafted coffins beside prominent families in Albany, New York, the Associated Press reports.
“We have an obligation to make sure that these people receive a level of dignity and respect that they never received in life,” said Cordell Reaves, of the Schuyler Flatts Burial Ground Project.
Facial reconstructions were done for each of the slaves: seven adults, five infants and two children, giving dignity to the nameless.
The discovery adds to the legacy of slavery in the United States. The slaves’ bones reflect hard lives: arthritic backs, missing teeth, muscular frames. One woman had arthritis in her back, shoulder and jaw by her 30s. Her front teeth had small notches in them, possibly from pulling thread across them repeatedly.
“It’s very rare that you have an opportunity to not just speak about the lives of the enslaved, but to actually do something to honor them,” said Reaves.