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Radio Diaries with Kai Wright


Originally Aired: Thursday, November 9, 2023


*Also streaming LIVE here! Visit this page on 11/9 to access.

Radio Diaries invites you into their new series The Unmarked Graveyard: Stories from Hart Island. Join Radio Diaries’ Executive Producer Joe Richman and WNYC’s Kai Wright on an audio tour of America’s largest public cemetery and hear some of the stories buried there.

Hart Island is located on an uninhabited strip of land off the Bronx in the Long Island Sound. Since 1869, more than a million people have been buried on Hart Island, including early AIDS patients, unidentified and unclaimed New Yorkers, immigrants, incarcerated people, artists and actors, and, most recently, approximately ten percent of New Yorkers who died of COVID-19.

Many of the people buried on Hart Island are shrouded in anonymity. The island has no headstones or plaques, just numbered markers. In many cases, explanations for how bodies came to be buried there are hard to find. Our series tells the stories of seven people—a man who lived in a city park, a writer, a missing college student, an estranged uncle, a composer, and a father who struggled with addiction—who were buried on Hart Island through a range of circumstances. Some were lost in the system after their deaths, while others had been cut off from family and friends for years. One chose Hart Island as his final resting place. Each story is told by the people who knew them best, some of whom overcame tremendous obstacles to uncover what happened to their loved ones.

The event will feature voices from the series retelling the stories live on stage, as well as music and audio clips from the series. The Unmarked Graveyard explores the ways we think about anonymity in death, and how community, class, and mental health shape what happens after we die.

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