AME Mount Zion African-American Cemetery Celebration

by Olivia Twine

The long-neglected A.M.E. Mount Zion African-American Cemetery in Kingston, N.Y.–acquired, restored and rededicated by the Kingston Land Trust in 2011–was established in the early 1800s for enslaved Africans and their descendants who lived in Ulster County. A walking tour of the cemetery on South Wall Street, and a Memorial Celebration, will be held there on Sunday, June 7. The event begins at 2 p.m.

Reverend James Childs will speak in honor of the deceased, including members of the Civil War U.S. Colored Infantry of the 20th Regiment. The Senior Pastor of the Pointe of Praise Family Life Center, the venerable Childs, born in Kingston, has been serving the community for many decades. Former U.S. Congressman Maurice Hinchey has described him as “one of our region’s most respected and passionate men of faith.” The event begins at 2 p.m.

At the re-dedication ceremony in 2011, the pastor of the Old Dutch Church in Kingston, Dominie Kenneth L. Walsh, read a “Statement of Reconciliation” in which he acknowledged with deep regret “our history of dehumanizing racism that allowed for the enslavement and subsequent segregation of our sisters and brothers of African descent…..We, with the whole Reformed Church in America, proclaim that our contribution to racism and bigotry has been sinful and contrary to God’s eternal will of grace….”

A video of that occasion, and interviews with descendants can be seen at the following link:

The AME Mount Zion Church, organized in 1848, the first black church in Ulster County. It’s original site is now a gas station. The church is currently located at 26 Franklin Street.

An earlier (17th century) African and African-American burial ground in Kingston has not been restored because it is located on privately owned land and at least one house has been built on it. Known as the Pine Street cemetery, is is reportedly one of the earliest and potentially the largest African and African-American cemetery, with “100’s to 1,000’s” buried there, according to historical archeologist Joseph E. Diamond, Ph.D. Dr. Diamond’s article, “Owned in Life, Owned in Death, The Pine Street African and African-American Burial Ground in Kingston, N.Y.” can be seen at the link: