Science uncovers story of slaves on property that now belongs to Nashville Zoo

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee — They were relatively young people of African descent, worn down by years of hard labor.

Six of them had arthritis. One man walked with a limp, and a woman endured fractured vertebrae in her lower spine. A young, probably heavyset man had a damaged hip — and maybe sickle cell anemia, too.

They were almost certainly slaves on the old Grassmere farm, a large tract of land in South Nashville that's now used for a different purpose: the home of the Nashville Zoo.

DNA and skeletal evidence revealed that remains that were dug up at the zoo to make way for a bigger, $6.8 million "entry village" appear to have belonged to African-Americans buried in a slave cemetery at Grassmere.

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