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African American Burial Ground at Benjamin Rush State Park

African American Burial Ground in Northeast Philadelphia 

February 18, 2013

Digital Report by Joseph J. Menkevich


As a member of the research committee of the Historical Society of Frankford and as an independent researcher, I felt a moral obligation to personally contact a number of the area’s AME & Baptist Churches and inform them of this Historical Cemetery. Many members of the Black Community thanked me, as most had never heard about it before.

On the outskirts of Benjamin Rush State Park there is a small plot of ground that once belonged to the Byberry Preparative Meeting (Society of Friends).

In 1780, the Byberry Meeting established a cemetery for Free-Blacks & former Slaves. After 200 years of custodianship, & for reasons still unknown, the Byberry Friends sold the African American Cemetery to the City of Philadelphia.

Today – as Benjamin Rush State Park undergoes it’s final stages of development, the “[African Amerian] Historic Burial Ground Not To Be Disturbed” appears to be safely inside the Plan of the Park, however that may not be the case. It is presently unknown if the City still retains ownership or not.

Presently (no matter who “owns” it), there is no clarity on the fate of this cemetery and thus-far, there has not yet been any State or City Official speak on it’s inclusion to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places or for a ceremony & installation an Historical Marker.

On Thursday, January 27, 2013 – I met with State Park Manager Eric Ihlein at Benjamin Rush State Park and did we did a walk around the general area of African American Cemetery site.

Eric Ihlein explained many of the construction plans.  What I understood from the conversation is that the Park has funding & a budget, but the African Cemetery is not included in that budget. The plan for now seems to be an ongoing study by several “historical groups.” Here are my findings:

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