A fight for the proper memorialization of 9,000 formerly enslaved Africans in “A Story of Bones” on POV – July 3 at 10 pm

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‘POV’ Uncovers A Burial Site Containing Thousands of Once Enslaved Africans in the Astonishing Documentary:

A Story of Bones

Monday, July 3 at 10 pm


POV, America’s longest running non-fiction series, chronicles Annina van Neel’s and Peggy King Jorde’s efforts to reclaim a burial site containing thousands of formerly enslaved Africans on the famed British territory, Saint Helena, in the captivating documentary, A Story of Bones, by first-time feature length film directors Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere, and produced by Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo.

A Story of Bones makes its national broadcast premiere on POV Monday, July 3, 2023 at 10pm and will be available to stream without PBS Passport membership until October 3, 2023 at, and the PBS App. In addition to standard closed captioning for the film, POV, in partnership with audio description service DiCapta, provides real time audio interpretations for audiences with sensory disabilities.

A Black mother and her child seen from the back, both with dreadlocks, looking out at workers on a rocky field. The child is wearing a two-tone blue t-shirt, while the mother is in a black tank top.
Noah Van Neel-Hayes (L) Annina Van Neel in Rupert’s Valley, Saint Helena
Credit: A Story of Bones Ltd © 2022

The island of Saint Helena is best known for being where the deposed emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled, died and originally buried. His beautifully maintained grave is one of the remote island’s biggest tourist’s attractions. To increase tourism, the island builds its first commercial airport, and hires Annina van Neel as its Construction Environmental Officer to assist with the project that was experiencing delays. During construction, van Neel learns about an unmarked mass burial ground of an estimated 9,000 formerly enslaved African men, women and children retrieved from slave ships during the Middle Passage, on the site. The discovery revealed one of the most significant physical traces of the transatlantic slave trade still on earth.

Haunted by this historical injustice, Annina sets out to hold the Government accountable. Feeling increasingly isolated on the island, Annina looked to the outside world for help. She found an ally in Peggy King Jorde, a renowned African American preservationist whose work – thirty years earlier –– was born of a similar struggle and produced New York’s African Burial Ground National Monument. Together they fight for the proper memorialization of these forgotten victims, exposing the UK’s disturbing colonial past and present.

Directors Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere follow the activists as they experience victories and setbacks while placing front and center the legacy of colonial rule on an island still governed by Britain. The narrative in A Story of Bones isn’t consigned to just Saint Helena. It emanates outward connecting the global consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere, directors, A Story of Bones said:

Two women stand solemnly in a cemetery, facing an elaborate tombstone marked with the inscription "KING" at its foot with flower vases on both sides of the tombstone. The woman on the left is dressed in a vibrant, multicolored long-sleeve top in various shades of red, paired with dark jeans, while the woman on the right is dressed in a solid blue long-sleeve top, also paired with dark jeans
Annina Van Neel (L) and Peggy King Jorde in Albany, Georgia
Credit: A Story of Bones Ltd © 2022

“In October 2015, we boarded the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) in Cape Town and set sail for the six-day voyage to Saint Helena to document the historical opening of the island’s new $360M airport. Like many people, we were aware of Saint Helena as the remote island of Napoleon’s exile and death but knew nothing of its disturbing history connected to the transatlantic slave trade. It was through Annina that we learned of the unearthing of the remains of the 325 once enslaved Africans in 2008, to make way for the airport haul road. The discovery of Saint Helena as a little known, but crucial part of the Middle Passage narrative, reframed the focus of the film for us.

“Over the next six years, we closely followed Aninna’s tireless activism efforts and subsequently, the collaboration with Peggy King Jorde to engage the community and catalyze a movement for change. The way that the two stories were so intertwined felt deeply symbolic, and a truly unique expression of how the UK continues to peddle selective, and often false narratives about Britain’s colonial past and its role in the global slave trade. It is these realities that continue to define the lives of so many people deep into the 21st century. We hope that, through Annina sharing her story, other voices are empowered to question and challenge the oppressive power structures that continue to marginalize certain histories. In the words of Peggy King Jorde: ‘It matters how we choose to remember.’”

A Story of Bones lays bare the history of enslavement and its connection to our world today,” said Erika Dilday, Executive Director, American Documentary and Executive Producer, POV and America ReFramed. “Amplifying independent filmmakers who take creative risks to tell stories about individuals who are doing important work around the issues that matter to them is what distinguishes American Documentary in the industry.”

A Story of Bones had its world premiere in competition at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. In 2022, the film received a special mention at the Movies That Matter Festival in the Hague, made the long list for Best Feature Documentary and Best Debut Feature at the British Independent Film Awards and was shortlisted for Best Feature Documentary at the 38th IDA Documentary Awards. The documentary was also an official selection at the 2022 Sheffield DocFest, Human Rights Film Festival Berlin, Dokufest in Kosovo, and the 2023 Doc Edge Film Festival in New Zealand. A Story of Bones continues to play around the world, with upcoming premieres in 2023 at the Zanzibar Film Festival (June/July), Encounters SA International Doc Film Festival in Cape Town (June/July), and One World Slovakia (November).