NEW YORK (AP) — It was a day that had been a long time coming, and for the community leaders who gathered Friday to dedicate a memorial at the once-forgotten grave site of thousands of African slaves, it was also a day of regret.

"Forgive us for disregarding your precious gifts to this world," the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. said to the long-dead slaves and free blacks who were interred beneath lower Manhattan, then forgotten for decades as the city sprouted skyward above their remains.

Many speakers at the African Burial Ground memorial lamented the lack of recognition those buried there had experienced in life and after death, and vowed to make the memorial a permanent reminder of their sacrifices. Their remains were rediscovered 16 years ago.