"The Doctors' Riot was an incident in 1788 in New York City, where the illegal procurement of corpses from the graves of slaves and poor whites resulted in a mass expression of discontent from poorer New Yorkers directed primarily at physicians and medical students.
By the end of the American Revolution, roughly one fifth of New York City's population was Black, most of whom were slaves. The construction of New York City, under both the Dutch and the English, was accomplished largely with slave labour. Due to their low social standing, the bodies of slaves could only be buried outside the city limits. Most often they were interred in a small number of plots north of Chambers Street, across the street from the Pauper's Cemetery, often with several bodies to a grave, in a site now marked by the African Burial Ground National Monument, then known as the "Negroes Burying Ground".
Both cemeteries were located close to Columbia College, which housed the city's only school of medicine. Due to taboos associated with the violation of corpses, procuring cadavers for study was difficult, and many students and doctors would exhume bodies from the nearby graveyards due to the socially marginalized status of their occupants.