African-American Namesake Parks

Just as there are many influential African-Americans who have shaped the landscape of our culture, there are many Parks properties that have been named for a fraction of these important Americans. The list below is a sampling of namesake parks; be sure to scour your park for historical signs and discover great citizens of all nationalities and creeds who have been honored.

1935: Children gather around a cannon in Dorrence Brooks Square, the first public square named after an African-American soldier, Civil War veteran and Harlem native Dorrence Brooks.

Children play ping-pong in 1945 in Mount Morris Park, renamed Marcus Garvey Park in 1973.

1978 groundbreaking ceremony for the rehabilitation and renaming of Colonial Park Recreation Center (now Jackie Robinson Recreation Center) in Manhattan. From left to right: David Robinson (son of Jackie Robinson), Commissioner Gordon J. Davis, and Councilman Fred Samuel.

Community Figures

Basil Behagen Playground

Throughout his lifetime, Basil Behagen (1927-1993) demonstrated his commitment to youth and to his community. He worked as a Substance Abuse Prevention Intervention Specialist for the Board of Education for many years and was a member of the Advisory Board of Lincoln Hospital. As a member of Bronx Community Board 3, Behagen served on the Youth Committee and as Chair of the Cultural Committee for three years. As Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee for six years, Behagen worked to upgrade open spaces in the district. He also organized basketball tournaments and other community events in the Bronx. 

Visit Basil Behagen Playground

Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond at Van Cortlandt Park

The lake, historically known as the Mill Pond, has been renamed ‘Hester & Piero’s Mill Pond’ to honor Piero the Miller, an enslaved African who milled grain on this site, and his wife, Hester. Piero was particularly well known in the area for his expertise as a miller of grain. It is surmised that Piero was quite good at his job, which may be why he was allowed to keep his family intact, his wife Hester and their son Peter living with him on the plantation.

Visit Van Cortlandt Park

Reverend T. Wendell Foster Park

Reverend Wendell T. Foster (1924-2019) was a civil rights advocate and the first Black elected city official in the Bronx. In 1959, Foster settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, and served as president of the local chapter of the NAACP. Foster ministered at the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church in Harlem in 1962 but left to found the Christ Church. In 1963, he settled with his family in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. In 1978, Foster became the first Black person to be elected to a city government position in Bronx County. As the Councilman of the 9th, and later 16th District, he championed low-income housing and served as longtime chair of the Parks Committee, promoting open spaces, including this one. Reverend Foster also co-founded the United Black Church Appeal to combat food insecurity and addiction, and helped found the Bronx Shepherds Restoration Corporation, which invests in improved borough housing.

Reverend T. Wendell Foster Park

Mabel Hampton Garden

Mabel Hampton was a prominent lesbian activist and dancer during the Harlem Renaissance. She was also a philanthropist and lived with her longtime partnerLillian Foster for decades on 169th Street in the Bronx.

Visit Mabel Hampton Garden

Ralph H. Hoist Triangle

Ralph H. Hoist Triangle honors a diligent community steward. Ralph H. Hoist (1922-1990) was a pioneer in the struggle to prevent drug abuse in the early 1950s, Hoist helped create the Harlem Neighbors’ Association, now known as the Ralph Rangel Houses Association, a grassroots organization focused on drug issues. He founded Boy Scout Troop 185, and coached two baseball teams: the Pioneers, a Little League team, and a Pony League team called Boys of Yesteryear. In 1960, Hoist took an all-star team of Pony League players to Puerto Rico and returned with the championship trophy. When he moved to the northeast Bronx in January 1970, Hoist organized the 214th Street Block Association, now known as the United Homeowners and Tenants Association.

Visit Ralph H. Hoist Triangle

Eae J. Mitchell Park

Eae J. Mitchell Park is named for a community activist, Eae J. Mitchell. When fires devastated parts of the southeastern Bronx in the late 1970s, Mitchell volunteered to help rebuild many of the parks. He was keenly interested in purchasing this lot on 174th Street, between Vyse Avenue and Boone Avenue, which at the time was essentially a dustbowl. The City sold it to Mitchell for a dollar. Over the next few years, Mitchell created the park, clearing the area of trash, leveling the ground, erecting a fence around the park, and maintaining it daily. When it was ready for community use, Mitchell arranged for the staging of plays, music shows, and cookouts for neighborhood residents. The park was transferred to Parks after he died in 1989 and was named Eae J. Mitchell Park in 1997.

Visit Eae J. Mitchell Park

Rev. James A. Polite Playground

This playground is named for Reverend James Arthur Polite (1899-1980), a much-loved pastor of the nearby Thessalonia Baptist Church. Born in Beauport, South Carolina, Polite became pastor of the Bronx church in 1939. He not only ministered to his own flock, but also saw to the welfare of residents throughout the Bronx. He was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Because of Polite’s interest in the missionary movement, the government of the former British Guiana invited him to attend their independence ceremony in 1966.

Visit Rev. James A. Polite Playground

Bill Rainey Park

Bill Rainey Park is named after William F. Rainey (1920-1985), an African-American veteran of World War II and a dedicated volunteer and leader in the community. He was also responsible for turning the Police Athletic League Lynch Community Center into a model recreation facility. As director of the Lynch Center for nearly twenty years, Rainey worked tirelessly towards improving the quality of life for all who lived in the community, especially children. In addition, Rainey held many leadership responsibilities in the community, including one term as Vice Chairman of Community Board 2, and several years of work with local improvement organizations. Rainey was a member of the New York State Parks and Recreation Society and led the Recreation Committee for the Exploring Program of the Boy Scouts of America.

Bill Rainey was an avid supporter of a proposal to replace the vacant lots and tenement buildings of Kelly Street with a park at this site. Because of the community’s efforts, the land was acquired by the City through condemnation in 1984. In February 1986, construction began on what would be the biggest recreational project in the South Bronx in a century. Sadly, Rainey passed away before the park was finished, but a grassroots campaign soon arose to name the park for him.

Visit Bill Rainey Park

Hilton White Playground

This playground is named in honor of local hero Hilton White (1932-1990), whose outreach and commitment to underprivileged athletes left a lasting impression on this Bronx community. He founded a local basketball team called “the Falcons.” As a coach and mentor to local kids who played for the team, White emphasized excellence in school as well as on the court. As a direct result of his guidance, three players from the Falcons – Willie Worsley, Neville Shed and Willie Cager – received athletic scholarships to Texas Western University, where they played on the team which won the 1966 NCAA Finals against the University of Kentucky, a perennial basketball powerhouse. This game marked the first time a championship team started with an all African American line-up, and, in this case, they were playing against an all-white Kentucky team. The game spurred recruitment of African-American players and coaches – particularly in colleges in the South which wanted to remain competitive. It also increased the number of athletic scholarships for minorities, and changed the face of the game. Hilton White played a key part in this development.

Visit Hilton White Playground


Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater

Gil Scott-Heron was a pioneering soul and jazz poet, musician, and author. As a young man he attended DeWitt Clinton High School and the Fieldston School in the Bronx. Currently, the renamed amphitheater along with the plaza, pathways and lighting in this area of St. Mary's Park is being renovated through the Anchor Parks Initiative, and the project is slated for completion in the coming fall.

Visit the Gil Scott-Heron Amphitheater

Political Figures

Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary, Grant Park

There's a bird sanctuary in the South Bronx named for Dred Scott (1799-1858), an enslaved man who sued for his and his family's freedom in the famous Dred Scott v. Sanford case of 1857. In the trial, which became known as the "Dred Scott Decision", Dred Scott argued that he should be granted his freedom because he lived with his owner in Illinois and in territories where enslavement was illegal before returning to the slave state of Missouri. After losing in the Missouri state court, his lawyers appealed to the United States Supreme Court. But the court found that no black person, free or enslaved, could claim United States citizenship; therefore, Scott was unable to petition the federal court for his freedom. The court also ruled that Scott's travel to free states did not qualify him to become free. This court's decision sparked outrage in the North and had a powerful influence on Abraham Lincoln's Republican Party and election, the secession of the South from the Union, and the Civil War. Dred Scott and his family became free, through their new owners, on May 26, 1857. Scott died four months later.

Here at the Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary in Grant Park, founders Troy Lancaster and Jim Beer named this place made for birds for Dred Scott because he is a reminder that "we can change our circumstances and make a difference."

Visit the Dred Scott Bird Sanctuary

Estella Diggs Park

Rocks and Roots Park was renamed in honor of Estella Diggs (1916-2013). She was the first African-American woman to represent the Bronx in the New York State Assembly.

Visit Estella Diggs Park

Walter Gladwin Park

Walter Gladwin (1902-1988) was the first Black elected official in Bronx history, and held several prominent offices in Bronx government. He was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1953 and represented Tremont and Morrisania. Later in his career, he was appointed as a judge and was active with the wider Bronx community, including as president of the Bronx chapter of the NAACP and the Director of the Bronx Chamber of Commerce.

Visit Walter Gladwin Park

Martin Luther King Triangle

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s. In 1963, he organized the March on Washington to support proposed civil rights legislation. There he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The following year, at age 35, King became the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. One of the great American heroes of the 20th century, he devoted his life to fostering tolerance and equality on the ground that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His courage continues to inspire people all over the world. King is honored with a national holiday on the third Monday in January, which falls close to or on his birthday, January 15.

Visit the Martin Luther King Triangle

Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) Recreation Center

Born Stokeley Carmichael, Kwame Ture, graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, and was a prominent activist and organizer during the Civil Rights era and leader in the Black Power movement.

Visit Kwame Ture Recreation Center

Military Heroes

Captain Roscoe Brown, PH.D. Plaza

Roscoe C. Brown, Jr. (1922-2016) was a decorated Air Force Veteran and member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen—an all-African American fighter group known for their tremendous successes during World War II. He and the other surviving Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 for their service. Following his military service, he continued his life of service and civil rights advocacy with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club of America, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, Libraries for the Future, and the National Park Service. He was also a founding member and president of 100 Black Men. Dr. Brown became president of Bronx Community College in 1977, where he held the post for sixteen years. 

Visit Captain Roscoe Brown, PH.D. Plaza

Charlton-Thompson Garden

Charlton-Thompson Garden is named in honor of Medal of Honor recipients Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton and Private First Class William H. Thompson who served in the Korean War. In 1952, Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton received the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart posthumously for his valorous courage, superb leadership, and extraordinary sacrifice he made in service of his country on Hill 543 in Korea. In 1951, Private First Class William H. Thompson received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for his dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice he made in service of his country near Haman, Korea. Both grew up in the Bronx.

Visit Charlton-Thompson Garden

Captain William Harry Thompson Park

Captain Thompson was born and raised in NYCHA's Bronx River Houses, where Playground 174 is located. He served as a Court Officer for 27 years before becoming an instructor at the Court Officers Academy. On September 11, 2001, without hesitation, Captain Thompson ran into the World Trade Center and tragically lost his life while trying to save others during search and rescue efforts.

Captain William Harry Thompson Park

Sports Professionals

Roberto Clemente Ballfield

The Roberto Clemente Ballfield is named for one of this country’s greatest major league baseball players. His honors included eleven straight Gold Gloves, five National League batting championships, twelve All-Star selections, and the 1966 National League Most Valuable Player award. He led the Pirates to victory in the World Series in 1960 and 1971 and was chosen World Series Most Valuable Player in 1971. Clemente died in an airplane crash on December 31, 1972, New Year’s Eve, on a mission to bring food and medical supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. The following year, he became the first Hispanic player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Visit Roberto Clemente Ballfield

Elston Gene Howard Field

Elston Gene Howard was the first African American on the NY Yankees roster (1955-67). He was named to the American League All-Star team nine times. Macombs Dam Park is located directly across from Yankee Stadium; a fitting location to honor this legend.

Visit Elston Gene Howard Field at Macombs Dam Park

Joseph Yancey Track and Field 

In 1936, Joseph James Yancey, Jr. (1910-1991) co-founded the New York Pioneer Track and Field Club, an interracial team which nurtured many Olympic athletes. Yancey served as a Captain in the Army in the 369th regiment and was the head coach of the Jamaican Olympic team at the 1948, 1952, and 1956 Olympics. His 1952 group included the “Flying Quartet,” a relay team that ran the 1,600-meter race in 3 minutes and 3.9 seconds, thereby winning the gold medal in world-record time. He also worked with Olympic teams from the Bahamas, British Guiana (now Guyana), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yancey’s many lifetime awards and honors included induction into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. 

Visit the Joseph Yancey Track and Field at Macombs Dam Park

Community Figures

Carnegie Playground

Margaret Carnegie (1910-1993) was a leading advocate for public housing and an outstanding community leader. Throughout her adult life, she worked for the basic necessities of a strong neighborhood: public housing, the strengthening of family relations, and better quality of life for seniors. She is credited with bringing ‘Grandparents Day’ (the first Sunday after Labor Day) to New York. Grandparents Avenue, located along a section of Kingsland Avenue, earned its name in recognition of her work. 

Visit Carnegie Playground in Cooper Park

Hattie Carthan Garden and Playground

Hattie Carthan (1900–1984) was a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident who always had an interest in trees. When she noticed conditions in her neighborhood beginning to deteriorate, Mrs. Carthan began replanting trees there, and in the process, helped found the Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood Tree Corps and the Green Guerillas. Carthan also led the charge to preserve a particular Southern magnolia tree (Magnolia grandiflora) that became a symbol of the neighborhood. The tree, rare in the northeast, was brought on a ship from North Carolina in 1885. Carthan not only succeeded in having a wall built to protect this tree but also spearheaded the successful attempt to designate it an official city landmark in 1970. It is one of only two trees to be designated as such (and after the 1998 death of the Weeping beech in Queens, the only tree still standing).

Carthan continued her campaign by convincing the City to convert three nearby abandoned homes into the Magnolia Tree Earth Center. The brownstones on Lafayette and Marcy Avenues behind Hattie Carthan Garden date to the 1880s and now feature a mural depicting Mrs. Carthan. The Center gained not-for-profit status in 1972. In 1998, Parks named the site to honor Carthan.

Visit the Hattie Carthan Garden

Visit Hattie Carthan Playground

Almira Kennedy Coursey Amphitheatre

This amphitheatre is named in honor of Almira Kennedy Coursey (1914-1996), who lived a life of service and devotion to her community. In 1968, she served as special assistant to the vice chancellor of the City University of New York where she developed programs to assist minority students. She worked with many advocacy groups in her surrounding neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, received numerous awards, and served on several city-wide committees on poverty and education under Mayors Robert F. Wagner Jr. (1910-1991) and John V. Lindsay (1921-2000). As one of the leaders of the Tompkins Park Recreation and Cultural Association, Coursey was instrumental in the renovations of this park, including the establishment of the Eubie Blake Auditorium and the construction of the nearby Kosciusko Pool.

Visit Almira Kennedy Coursey Amphitheatre

James Forten Playground

James Forten was a prominent abolitionist and vice president of the Anti-Slavery Society. During the Revolutionary War, he was temporarily imprisoned at Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay near what is today the Navy Yard.

Visit James Forten Playground

Buddy Keaton Fields at St. John’s Park

The athletic field in St. John’s Park is named for beloved longtime NYC Parks employee James “Buddy” Keaton. Keaton started his career working at the nearby St. John’s Recreation Center, where he was known as a coach, mentor, and community leader. He eventually rose to the position of Director of Sports Programs for Parks’ Brooklyn Recreation division. He passed away in July 2010 after 24 years of public service. The athletic field at St. John’s Park was renovated and renamed in his honor on August 9, 2011.

Visit Buddy Keaton Fields at St. John’s Park

Barry ‘Sly’ Morrow Field at Bushwick Playground

The athletic field in Bushwick Playground is named for Barry ‘Sly’ Morrow, a community activist who founded the Bushwick Football League in 1974. His tireless work providing structure and discipline to local children through competitive sport led him to take a second job at night as a cab driver in addition to his day job with the United Parcel Service to provide equipment, uniforms, and trophies to the children in his league. He continued his work until his passing on Christmas Day 2006. In 2006, the field in Bushwick Playground was renovated, and it was renamed Barry ‘Sly Morrow Field on October 27, 2011.

Visit Barry 'Sly' Morrow Field at Bushwick Playground

Herbert Von King Park

Called the "Mayor of Bed-Stuy", Herbert Von King (1912-1984) is well known for his active role in the community for more than 50 years. At age 20, he founded Boy Scout Troop 219 and later received scouting's highest achievement, the Vigil Honor, for his efforts. He went on to serve as a member of the the local community board, the Community Theatre Guild, the Bedford Stuyvesant Boxing Association, the Magnolia Tree Center, and more. Von King was the Vice President and Program Director of the NAACP, Brooklyn Branch and was named the first Police Civilian Community Coordinator by the New York City Police Department. In 1983, he received awards from the State Senate, City Council, and 81st police precinct in recognition of his community service. Herbert Von King Park was formerly named Tompkins Park; in 1985, the park was renamed for Von King.

Visit Herbert Von King Park

Education Professionals

Maritcha R. Lyons Park

Maritcha R. Lyons was an American educator, civic leader, suffragist, and public speaker in New York City and Brooklyn, New York. She taught in public schools in Brooklyn for 48 years, and was the second black woman to serve in their system as an assistant principal.

Visit Maritcha R. Lyons Park


Betty Carter Park

Betty Carter (1929-1998) is a legendary, Grammy Award-winning African-American jazz artist and cultural icon who was a prominent resident of Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Her hit song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Ray Charles made it on to the Billboard top 100 in 1962. In 1988, her album "Look What I Got!" won the Grammy for Best Female Jazz Vocal Performance. 

Visit Betty Carter Park

Lena Horne Bandshell

With a strong endorsement from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the historic concert venue has been renamed in honor of Lena Horne. Horne was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and was a trailblazing dancer, actress and singer in theater, film and television. She was also active on issues of social justice and civil rights.

Visit the Lena Horne Bandshell

Christopher "Biggie" Wallace Courts

The basketball courts at Crispus Attucks Playground are named for world-renowned rapper Christopher "Biggie" Wallace, who lived a few blocks away on St. James Place and played basketball on these courts. 

Visit the Christopher "Biggie" Wallace Courts


Dr. Susan Smith McKinney

Dr. Susan Smith McKinney was the first African-American woman in New York State to receive a license to practice medicine. She was born and raised in Brooklyn and she lived and practiced in Brooklyn as well. In addition to her impact as a medical professional, McKinney Steward was a steadfast advocate for women’s rights and racial equality, helping found the Women’s Loyal Union and serving in the Equal Suffrage League of Brooklyn. In 1911, she delivered a speech titled “Colored Women in America” at the first Universal Race Congress.

Visit Susan Smith McKinney Park

Political Figures

Shirley Chisholm Circle in Brower Park

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924–2005), educator, social rights advocate and celebrated politician was the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and first major party African-American candidate to run for President of the United States. Chisholm was born on November 30, 1924 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She was a child of Caribbean immigrants from British Guiana (now Guyana) and Barbados. She later attended Brooklyn College and earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Columbia University while teaching nursery school. Chisholm became an authority on early education and child welfare. She taught remedial education at 1078 Park Place. Local residents recall Chisholm regularly holding classes in Brower Park during temperate weather. This section of Park Place now bears her name, “Shirley Chisholm Place.”

Visit the Shirley Chisholm Circle in Brower Park

Crispus Attucks Playground

Crispus Attucks (c. 1723-1770) was killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. In 1768, following colonial protests over the passage of a series of import duties known as the Townsend Acts (1767), British troops were sent to Boston to keep order. The soldiers’ presence, however, only exacerbated tensions between the British and the Americans. On March 5, 1770, Attucks joined a crowd that was jeering at British soldiers stationed in Boston. Panicked, the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five men and wounding two others. Attucks, standing toward the front of the crowd, was the first killed.

The soldiers involved stood trial but were acquitted, and the Boston Massacre became a rallying cry for radical American patriots who used the incident to sharpen the divide between the British and the Americans. Attucks, whose freedom was always uncertain, became a symbol of the American colonial fight for freedom.

Visit the Crispus Attucks Playground

El-Shabazz Playground

El-Shabazz Playground (1925-1965) is named for the civil rights leader El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (1925-1965), also known as Malcolm X. Malcolm, whose father was brutally slain by a Klan-like organization called the Black Legionaries, was inspired by Elijah Muhammad’s teachings while imprisoned for burglary from 1946-1952. Elijah Muhammad taught that blacks should separate themselves from white society. Only by themselves, Elijah Muhammad taught, could black people overcome their problems in America. Malcolm started using the name Malcolm X (the X meant to signify a lost identity stolen by white oppressors).

After his release from prison, he began preaching in black communities throughout the United States. However, many of Elijah Muhammad’s teachings sharply conflicted with the more moderate civil rights movement, which sought desegregation and peaceful race integration. Consequently, mainstream society came to view Malcolm X as a hateful troublemaker.

In 1964, Malcolm X split from his teacher Elijah Muhammad. Once again, Malcolm X changed his name, this time to Malik el-Shabazz (the honorific El-Hajj would be added after his pilgrimage to Mecca). Equally important, he chose Sunni Islam as his new faith, which focuses on creating a unified American Muslim presence based on creed rather than race, and he became active in the international Muslim community. In doing so, he denounced his former teacher and the radical Nation of Islam. The resulting increase in tensions among Black Muslim organizations led to his assassination in February 1965.

Visit the El-Shabazz Playground

Dr. Green Playground

In Brownsville, Green Playground honors New York City’s first African-American Chancellor of the Board of Education, Dr. Richard E. Green (1936-1989). Dr. Green received his appointment from Mayor Edward Koch in March 1988. His term was cut short when he died of a severe asthma attack in May 1989. As Chancellor, Dr. Green cited four main objectives: creating a legislative package to fund new schools, reforming the election process for school board members, giving teachers more say in decision-making processes, and making schools safer and more effective. Dr. Green adamantly believed that children should be "the center" of American culture.

Visit Dr. Green Playground

Houston Playground

In the early 20th century Charles Hamilton Houston (1895-1950) became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. Seven years after receiving his law degree from Harvard, he helped transform Howard University into a full-time, accredited law school as vice-dean. He served as the first-ever full-time special counsel to the NAACP from 1935 to 1940 and played key roles in advocating for education equality and eliminating racial discrimination in the hiring process.

Visit Houston Playground

Martin Luther King Playground and the Kennedy King Playground

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968) was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. In 1963, he organized the March on Washington to support proposed civil rights legislation. There he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The following year, at age 35, King became the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. One of the great American heroes of the 20th century, he devoted his life to fostering tolerance and equality on the ground that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His courage continues to inspire people all over the world. King is honored with a national holiday, on the third Monday in January, which falls close to or on his birthday, January 15th.

Visit Martin Luther King Playground

Visit the Kennedy King Playground

Lowry Triangle

The park where it is located, formerly known as Underhill Gore, and dating to 1877, was renamed by the City Council for Rev. Benjamin Lowry in 1982. Reverend Benjamin James Lowry (1891-198Α) was the long-time pastor of Zion Baptist Church, located at 523 Washington Avenue in the Prospect Heights section of Brooklyn.

Visit Lowry Triangle

Public Servants

Paul Clinton Garden, McGolrick Park

This entry garden, located within the park at the corner of Nassau and Russell Streets, commemorates the 19 years of dedicated service of Brooklyn Park Supervisor Paul Clinton  (1960-2007). Paul oversaw the largest number of park properties of any district in the borough. Until his untimely passing in 2007, Paul served the district and kept his office in McGolrick Park. Under his supervision, the parks of the district won numerous awards including the “Greenest District Award."

Learn more about Paul Clinton Garden

Edmonds Playground

Ronald Edmonds (1935-1983) was appointed senior assistant for instruction under New York City Schools Chancellor Frank J. Macchiarola in 1978, where he served for three years. He initiated the School Improvement Project, which focused on discipline and management. He believed that improving schools for the poorest children would raise the performance of all children. At a time when many educators questioned the validity of testing, Edmonds felt that standardized reading and math tests gave students important information about their performance and indicated to educators and administrators the quality of the education being offered at the school.

In addition to his lasting influence on city schools, Edmonds wrote two books, The Negro in American History (1955) and Black Colleges in America (1978).

Visit Edmonds Playground

Detective Dillon Stewart Playground

This playground in Prospect Park is named for Detective Dillon Stewart, a police officer who was killed in the line of duty on November 28, 2005. A native of Jamaica, Stewart immigrated at age nine and grew up in East Flatbush. He graduated from Lafayette High School and Baruch College. Prior to serving as an officer, Stewart worked as an accountant at the public radio station WNYC. At age 30, he changed careers and quickly earned his reputation as a dedicated officer with multiple commendations for bravery.

On November 28, 2005, the 35-year-old Stewart was fatally shot after conducting a routine traffic stop. He was posthumously awarded the New York City Police Department Medal of Honor on June 15, 2006. Detective Dillon Stewart Playground serves as a lasting memorial to his heroism.

Visit Detective Dillon Stewart Playground


Banneker Playground

Benjamin Banneker’s (1731-1806) accomplishments spanned many disciplines. Based on his understanding of physics, he predicted solar eclipses, including the eclipse of 1789. From 1791 to 1802 he published the Almanac, the first scientific journal produced by an African American. Banneker helped survey Washington D.C. with George Ellicott and Pierre L’Enfant, the French architect who designed the original plan for the nation’s capital.

Visit Banneker Playground

Carver Playground

George Washington Carver (1864-1943) is best remembered for his enterprising studies of the peanut. This research bred a wealth of derivations, including knowledge that led to the improved production of cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, wood stains, and insulating board. Despite his extensive research, Carver only patented three of his 500 agricultural inventions, reasoning, “God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?” .

In 1916, Carver was appointed to the Royal Society of Arts in London, and in 1923 he received the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People’s (NAACP) Springarn Medal for his contributions to agriculture. Before his death in 1943, Carver contributed his life savings to a foundation for research at Tuskegee. His birthplace was designated a National Monument in 1953.

Visit Carver Playground

Dr. Ronald McNair Park

This park honors astronaut Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair (1950-1986). In 1984, McNair became the second African-American to make a flight into space. He was a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger. His life was cut short on his next mission, when the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 28, 1986.

Visit Dr. Ronald McNair Park

Sports Professionals

Floyd Patterson Field

This park honors Floyd Patterson (1935-2006), a boxing legend who was the world heavyweight champion for the periods 1956-59 and 1960-62. Patterson was born in Waco, North Carolina and moved with his family to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn when he was a small child. While attending the Wiltwyck School for Boys in Esopus, New York, Patterson learned how to box. In 1952, he won nine amateur boxing crowns, including the Olympic middleweight gold medal at the summer games in Helsinki, Finland. 

Patterson began his professional career in December 1953 with a win against Dick Wagner. Three years later, Patterson knocked out heavyweight titleholder Archie Moore in the fifth round and became what was then the youngest champion ever at the age of 21. Patterson’s last fight was in 1972 when he was knocked out by Muhammad Ali. 

After 19 years of professional boxing, Floyd Patterson retired at 37 with a career record of 55 wins, eight losses, one draw, and 40 knockouts. After retiring from the ring, Patterson worked with many charitable organizations and became a member of the New York State Athletic Commission, serving as one of the state’s three boxing commissioners. 

Floyd Patterson Field

Jesse Owens Playground

Jesse Owens (1913-1980) was one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Owens went to Ohio State University, running track on a scholarship as a Buckeye. He won eight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles, but he gave his greatest performance at the 1935 Big Ten Conference Championships. Owens set or tied four world records: the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, the 220-yard low hurdles, and the long jump. He went to the brand new Parks stadium on Randall’s Island and won the Olympic trials. Jesse Owens, already famous, was soon to become a legend.

In 1936, Germany hosted the Olympic Games in Berlin. Adolf Hitler saw the Berlin Olympics as the perfect stage to demonstrate German strength and Aryan superiority to the world. This was the moment Jesse Owens stepped into, and his extraordinary prowess propelled him into history. He won four gold medals. He set Olympic records in the 200-meter dash and long jump, tied a world record in the 100-meter dash, and was part of the world record-breaking 4x100-yard relay team. Germany won more medals than any other country, but it was Owens that the world applauded. The sharecroppers’ son had shown up a dictator, and his achievements, modesty, and patriotism made him a hero in the United States.

Visit Jesse Owens Playground

Jackie Robinson Park

Baseball great Jackie Robinson (1919–1972) is honored not only by the Jackie Robinson Parkway, which connects Brooklyn and Queens but also by two city parks–one in Brooklyn and another in Manhattan. In Brooklyn, Jackie Robinson Park is located on Reid Avenue between Chauncey and Marion Streets; the park was named for Robinson in 1981.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson made history as the first African American to play in a Major League baseball game, paving the way for generations of black athletes to compete in America’s national pastime. Born in Cairo, Georgia, and raised in Pasadena, California, Robinson became the first student to letter in four sports at the University of California, Los Angeles: baseball, basketball, football, and track. Robinson played professional football for the Los Angeles Bulldogs before serving in the army during World War II. After the war, Robinson played baseball in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs, where he caught the eye of Branch Rickey (1881–1965), general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey signed Robinson on August 28, 1945 to join the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in the International League. Two seasons later, Robinson made it to the majors, leading the Dodgers to six World Series appearances. He retired in 1956 with a lifetime batting average of .311, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

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Roy A. Sweeney Cricket Oval in Spring Creek Park

Roy A. Sweeney was best known for facilitating and promoting the sport of cricket in the United States. He was born in Chapelton, Clarendon, Jamaica and moved to the United States in 1955. He founded the Westbury Cricket Club, the United States Cricket Promoters Association, and New York City's Mayor's Cup Cricket Tournament. In 1991, he inducted in the Cricket Hall of Fame and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Metropolitan Cricket League in 2008. Sweeney passed away in 2013. 

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Carter G. Woodson Children’s Park

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was a historian, author, and the founder of the concept that would eventually become known as Black History Month. Woodson earned a master’s degree at the University of Chicago and became the second African American man to earn a doctorate from Harvard University (after W. E. B. Du Bois).

Convinced that Black history was being ignored by the white-dominated historical profession, Woodson co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. In 1926, he established Negro History Week, held the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This week would eventually be expanded into Black History Month, which was recognized as a federal observance in 1976.

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Potomac Playground/David Ruggles Playground

This playground and the adjacent school honor abolitionist, writer, and medical practitioner, David Ruggles (1810-1849), who opened the first African-American owned bookstore in America. Ruggles also devoted his life to ending slavery and obtaining equality for African Americans. He spent the majority of his life in New York City where he helped over 600 enslaved people, most notably Frederick Douglass, escape from slavery to the North and Canda, using the Underground Railroad.

While operating the bookstore, Ruggles wrote three anti-slavery pamphlets, Extinguisher, Extinguished, and Abrogation of the Seventh Commandment by the American Churches. Ruggles also edited publications such as The Genius of Freedom, The Colored American, The North Star, and The Mirror of Liberty. In 1846, Ruggles moved to Massachusetts, where he was a successful medical practitioner of the “Water Cure,” a hydropathical medical treatment. He treated notables such as William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) and Sojourner Truth (1797-1883).

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In Memory

Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. Park

In 2001, the park was renamed for Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. (1981-1994), a local resident who was fatally shot by a New York City Housing Authority police officer in the nearby housing complex where he lived with his mother, father, and younger brother. Heyward attended Public School 20 and Nathan Hale Middle School, where he was an honor student and role model among his peers. He was an active member of the Church of God in Christ and by age 12, had already decided to pursue a career as a doctor or professional basketball player. Heyward regularly practiced basketball in this park and made his school’s basketball team just days before his death.

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Marc and Jason's Playground

This site is named for Marc Cleif Britou Jr. (1982-1996) and Jason Francis Moore (1982-1996). Both boys were bright, hard-working graduates from JHS 61 who passed away during a school trip.

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Community Figures

Samuel N. Bennerson Park

This park honors Samuel N. Bennerson II (1923-1970), a local leader active in the Amsterdam-Phipps community. As a civic leader, Bennerson focused on programs supporting children and served as an athletic coach and mentor for Lincoln Square residents.

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White Playground

This playground honors renowned civil rights activist and author Walter Francis White (1893-1955). White was the Executive Secretary of the  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and helped found the Legal Defense and Education Funds. During World War II (1939-1945), White served as a special correspondent for the New York Post in Europe and Japan. He was also an accomplished author of both fiction and nonfiction.

White Playground

Reverend Linnette C. Williamson Memorial Park

Known to the community as “Rev” (1923-1990), she provided many services during her long ministry, including three-day camps, a remedial reading program, a youth center, a daycare for working mothers, the Head Start program, a soup kitchen, and food pantry. She co-founded of the New York Council of Smaller Churches, a nonprofit, social services agency created to alleviate the plight of the homeless, the substance abusers, and the neglected. The Rev also advocated for vest-pockets parks in empty lots of inner-city neighborhoods. The creation of vest-pocket parks, the first of which still exists today at West 128th Street and Fifth Avenue, continues to be an inspiration for redesigning urban space for recreation.

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Johnny Hartman Square

Johnny Hartman (1923-1983) was a distinguished vocalist who is best remembered for his recordings of romantic ballads. After serving in the army in World War II, Hartman returned home where he won an amateur singing contest which led him into a professional singing career, working with pianist and bandleader Earl “Fatha” Hines. In 1949, when Hines’ band folded, Hartman was recruited to sing with jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie; their collaboration was memorable because of the contrast between Gillespie’s ‘hot’ trumpet playing and Hartman’s smooth ‘cool’ baritone voice. Hartman sang briefly with the pianist Errol Garner and his trio.

His career jumped in 1963 when he recorded with avant-garde saxophonist John Coltrane. The unlikely collaboration between Hartman’s more traditional vocal serenade and Coltrane’s far-reaching melodies was a huge success. Between 1947 and 1961 Hartman recorded eight albums, but his 1963 recording John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman was considered one of his greatest. Hartman continued to record to the end of his life. In 1981, he was nominated for a Grammy for his album Once in Every Life.

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Greg Marius Court

The basketball court at Holcombe Rucker Park is named in honor of Greg Marius (1958-2017), a young rapper of the Disco Four who founded the Entertainers Basketball Classic at Rucker Park. What began as a tournament between rival hip-hop groups, then became a renowned series of games featuring hip-hop celebrities and NBA players, from Diddy to Kobe Bryant, with high profiled spectators, from NBA Commissioner David Stern to former President Bill Clinton. 

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Bill “Bojangles” Robinson Playground

This park, located on 150th Street and Seventh Avenue, is named for an important figure in African–American culture: entertainer and philanthropist Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949). For years Robinson lived opposite this park at the Dunbar Apartments, home to many prominent African Americans, including W.E.B. DuBois and A. Philip Randolph. Dismayed by the lack of play spaces for children, in 1934, Robinson persuaded John D. Rockefeller, Jr., owner of the property, to deed the land to the City as a public park. The playground opened in November of that year and included a jungle gym, swings, seesaws, and handball courts.

Robinson’s commitment to the community earned him the honorary title “Mayor of Harlem.” He used this influence to help save a remnant of the historical Tree of Hope that stood opposite the Lafayette Theater at 131st Street and Seventh Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard). The stump of the elm, the bark of which performers once rubbed for good luck, was preserved along with a commemorative plaque that Robinson funded.

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Diana Ross Playground in Central Park

Born in Detroit, Diana Ross rose to fame as the lead singer of the Supremes, a legendary Motown Records girl group. A relentless performer, she recorded hit record after hit record with the Supremes before beginning her solo career in 1970. In 1983, Ross, then a New York City resident, performed two free concerts in Central Park to worldwide acclaim, with an estimated attendance of 800,000 people over the two shows. The first concert was memorably interrupted due to a torrential lightning storm. Although the concerts did not ultimately prove profitable, she personally funded the construction of the playground that now bears her name.

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Political Figures

Ralph Bunche Park

In 1950, Ralph Bunche (1904-1971) became the first African American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation work between Israel and the Arab States as the UN mediator in Palestine during the 1940s.

In 1955 Bunche was appointed undersecretary of the United Nations, and in 1957 secretary for special political affairs. In 1956 he was civilian supervisor of the UN peacekeeping forces in the Suez area. In 1960 he was part of a UN peacekeeping effort in the Congo, and in 1964 he helped to mediate differences between the Greeks, Cypriots, and Turks. For a lifetime of extraordinary achievement in the international arena, he was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. One year after he retired from the UN in 1970, he died in New York City.

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Frederick Douglass Playground

After his infamous autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845, Douglass (1817?-1895), became a prominent abolitionist, lecturer, world leader, and founder of abolitionist journal, The North Star.

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Marcus Garvey Park

Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park is named for Marcus Mosiah Garvey (1887–1940), the black nationalist leader who strived to promote racial pride and black economic independence. Garvey was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887 and emigrated to the United States in 1916, settling in Harlem. In 1918, Garvey established the New York chapter of his Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA).

At the UNIA’s first convention, held at Madison Square Garden in 1920, Garvey officially launched his Pan-African movement, announcing plans to build an independent nation in West Africa. The park, originally known as Mount Morris Park, was renamed for Marcus Garvey in 1973 under a local law introduced by Councilmember Charles L. Taylor.

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Martin Luther King Playground

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. In 1963, he organized the March on Washington to support proposed civil rights legislation. There he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The following year, at age 35, King became the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968. One of the great American heroes of the 20th century, he devoted his life to fostering tolerance and equality on the ground that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” His courage continues to inspire people all over the world. King is honored with a national holiday, on the third Monday in January, which falls close to or on his birthday, January 15th.

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Moore Playground

Fred R. Moore (1857-1943) served as a confidential messenger for twenty-two years to five Secretaries of the Treasury during the Grant, Hayes, Arthur, and Cleveland administrations. His career highlights include being a Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue, editor of Colored American magazine, editor and publisher of The New York Age, Brooklyn’s first African American to be a candidate for the New York Assembly, U.S. Minister to Liberia in 1912, a Harlem aldermen in 1927 and in 1929, Secretary of the Board of Managers of the Katy Ferguson-Sojourner Truth Homes, president of the Parent-Teacher Association of P.S. 119, trustee of the Monarch Lodge Building Corporation, officer of the National Negro Business League, President of the local Business League, and director of Dunbar National Bank.

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Constance Baker Motley Recreation Center

Located in the heart of midtown, the 54th Street Recreation Center has been a community staple for years. Now, its name has been formally changed in honor of Constance Baker Motley. Motley, born in 1921, was the first African American woman to become a federal judge. She was a leading jurist and legal advocate during the Civil Rights movement, and the first Black woman to serve as Manhattan Borough President.

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A. Philip Randolph Square

Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979) was a labor and civil rights leader. He organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first black union in the country, and successfully pressured President Roosevelt to issue the Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in the defense industry and led to the establishment of the Fair Employment Practice Commission. In 1955, the veteran labor leader became the first black vice-president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). On August 28, 1963, Randolph and Bayard Rustin directed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. 

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Percy E. Sutton Playground

Percy Sutton was an activist and lawyer during the Civil Rights movement; among his clients he represented Malcolm X. He was also a prominent black politician and businessman who served as Manhattan Borough President for more than a decade from 1966 -1977. Percy Sutton playground is located along the scenic Harlem River Drive.

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Public Servants

Courtney Callender Playground

East Harlem’s Courtney Callender (1937-1983) Playground is named after New York City’s first African-American Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. Callender began his career in Parks & Recreation, where he established the Community Relations division, which initiated the policy of including neighborhoods in park decisions.

Callender served as Community Relations Officer from 1966 to 1969 until Commissioner August Heckscher appointed him Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, three years after the Office of Cultural Affairs was transferred from the Mayor’s Office to the Parks Department. He held that position until 1972, organizing many community events, including the Harlem Cultural Arts Festival.

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Fred Samuel Playground

Frederick E. Samuel (1924-1985) devoted his career as a lawyer and politician to improving the quality of life of the people of Harlem. Samuel earned a reputation as the "People’s Lawyer", for the dedication he showed the clients of his Harlem practice. He was elected councilman for the Fifth District (now the Ninth District) in 1973. He held the office for three terms over the following twelve years. As Chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, Samuel was responsible for the adoption of influential legislation, including laws that created the Arson Strike Force and the Department of Juvenile Justice which have become national models. Samuel also helped to organize Harlem Day, the annual observance in which volunteer lawyers, doctors, and other professionals provide free services to residents.

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Bruce Garden in Isham Park

This garden honors the memory of Bruce Reynolds (1960-2001), a Port Authority Police Officer, who on the morning of September 11, 2001, rushed from his post at the George Washington Bridge into the inferno of the World Trade Center, sacrificing his life to save others.

In 1980, after attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, Bruce joined the Department of Parks & Recreation as an Urban Park Ranger. Bruce left Parks in 1986 and joined the Port Authority Police. When last seen on September 11, Bruce was helping a woman who had been seriously burned by jet fuel.

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Dr. Ronald McNair Playground

This park honors astronaut Dr. Ronald Erwin McNair (1950-1986) who died in the Challenger space shuttle tragedy on January 28, 1986. Born in Lake City, South Carolina on October 21, 1950, McNair graduated from North Carolina A&T State University and received his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. NASA selected him as an astronaut candidate in 1978.; His first and only complete space mission began on February 3, 1984. This was the first mission to use the space arm, which McNair operated. His second mission lasted only 73 seconds, before the shuttle exploded in the upper atmosphere, above the Atlantic Ocean, killing all seven on board.

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Sports Professionals

Pelham Fritz Recreation Center

A native of Trinidad, Pelham Fritz (1920-1988) moved to Harlem at age seven and spent his free time in what was then called Mount Morris Park. Before embarking on a 38-year career with Parks which culminated in the post of Assistant Commissioner for Recreation, Fritz’s career in recreation began at a City juvenile detention center. His first job with Parks was as an athletic coach at the Hamilton Houses Playground at 140th Street. Fritz was one of the original organizers of the Holcombe Rucker Community Basketball League and is remembered for being kind yet firm with the children he worked with and for his perpetual optimism.

Fritz was involved with many organizations in addition to Parks, including the Harlem YMCA, the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and the Children’s Aid Society, where he served as a trustee. Fritz was honored many times throughout his career for his exceptional community service. After he died, it was noted that he had collected no fewer than 102 different plaques for his service to the community.

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Fredrick Johnson Playground

Frederick Johnson (1891-1963) was an inspirational tennis player, coach, teacher, and Harlem native. The highlight of Johnson’s career came later in his life when he began promoting tennis in Harlem, sharing his love of the game by teaching it to others, often on the very courts in this park. Perhaps his most notable success was his discovery of star player Althea Gibson who went on to become the first African-American tennis player to compete at the National Championships (later known as the U.S. Open).

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Hansborough Recreation Center

John Rozier Hansborough Jr. (1907-1981), a former Parks recreational employee and Harlem community leader, was the first of two African Americans in the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials. As a founder of the Sports United Basketball Association, he trained several outstanding basketball officials who worked in the National Basketball Association.

Hansborough joined Parks as a Playground Director in 1938 and assembled many star-studded teams in track and field, football, basketball, softball, and baseball. He was promoted to Assistant Supervisor of Recreation in Manhattan in 1969 and implemented a cultural arts program at the Mount Morris (now Pelham Fritz) Recreation Center.

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Jackie Robinson Park

Baseball great Jackie Robinson (1919–1972) is honored not only by the Jackie Robinson Parkway, which connects Brooklyn and Queens but also by two city parks–one in Brooklyn and another in Manhattan. In Manhattan, Jackie Robinson Park is located between Bradhurst and Edgecombe avenues from West 145th to West 155th streets; the park was originally known as Colonial Park until it was renamed for Jackie Robinson in 1978 under a local law introduced by Councilmember Fred Samuel. Manhattan’s Jackie Robinson Recreation Center also features a bronze portrait bust depicting Robinson. The piece was created by Inge Hardison (b. 1904) and was installed in the entryway of the recreation center in 1981.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson made history as the first African American to play in a Major League baseball game, paving the way for generations of black athletes to compete in America’s national pastime. Born in Cairo, Georgia, and raised in Pasadena, California, Robinson became the first student to letter in four sports at the University of California, Los Angeles: baseball, basketball, football, and track. Robinson played professional football for the Los Angeles Bulldogs before serving in the army during World War II. After the war, Robinson played baseball in the Negro Leagues for the Kansas City Monarchs, where he caught the eye of Branch Rickey (1881–1965), general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey signed Robinson on August 28, 1945 to join the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers’ Triple–A affiliate in the International League. Two seasons later, Robinson made it to the majors, leading the Dodgers to six World Series appearances. He retired in 1956 with a lifetime batting average of .311, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

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Holcombe Rucker Playground

The world-famous Rucker Playground basketball court is named for African-American New Yorker Holcombe Rucker (1926-1965), a former NYC Parks playground director who founded the Rucker Tournament.

Rucker grew up in Manhattan, attended Benjamin Franklin High School, and between 1948 and 1964, worked for Parks as a playground director in numerous Harlem locales. In 1947, he started a basketball tournament in Harlem. The Rucker League’s motto was “each one, teach one,” and it stressed education in combination with recreation. Rucker personally taught participants reading fundamentals, graded their homework, and let success on report cards influence who would play. Throughout the course of the tournaments, Rucker helped to obtain over 700 college athletic scholarships for the participants. In the 1960s, Rucker transformed his local league into a basketball institution by organizing games where his best players shared the court with professionals such as Wilt Chamberlain.

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Military Heroes

Dorrance Brooks Square

This park is named in honor of Dorrance Brooks (d. 1918), an African American soldier who died in France shortly before the end of World War I. A native of Harlem and the son of a Civil War veteran, Brooks was a Private First Class in the 15th Infantry. In World War I, African American soldiers served in segregated regiments and were not eligible for aid from the Army Nurse Corps or the American Red Cross. In spite of these discouragements, Brooks distinguished himself as a faithful and patriotic soldier. Brooks was praised for his “signal bravery” in leading the remnants of his company after his superior officers were killed.

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Brigadier General Charles Young Playground

When Charles Young (1864-1922) entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1884, Young was the ninth African-American to be admitted, and the third and last to graduate until nearly half a century later. In 1894 he was assigned by the War Department to teach military science and tactics, as well as French and mathematics, at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Young served on the home front during the Spanish-American War (1898), but served two tours in the Philippines during the Insurrection (1901-03).

In 1906, Young became military attaché to Haiti, the first African-American military attaché in United States history. From 1912 to 1915 Young served as military attaché to Liberia, where he helped to reorganize the National Military Constabulary. Young established a school for African-American soldiers at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

When, at the age of 53, he was found to be physically unfit for service in World War I, Young was retired and promoted to full Colonel. In 2022, he was posthumously given an honorary promotion to the rank of Brigadier General in recognition of his service.

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James Baldwin Lawn

The entrance to St. Nicholas Park at 135th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue has been named James Baldwin Lawn. Baldwin who was born in New York City was a world-renowned author, essayist, playwright, scholar, activist, and speaker with childhood associations with Harlem and DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. Baldwin later resided in Greenwich Village.

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Ralph Ellison Plaza

A long-time resident of West Harlem, Ralph Ellison was a leading novelist, literary critic and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man. The newly named plaza was already home to a granite block bearing Ellison’s name in honor of his legacy.

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Langston Hughes Playground

Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. Though not born in NYC, he is most closely associated as a leader in the Harlem Renaissance, and lived in a now landmarked Harlem townhouse for more than two decades.

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James Weldon Johnson Playground

Weldon (1871-1938) founded the first African American-oriented daily newspaper, The Daily American, and in 1898 became an attorney and the first African American to be accepted into the Florida Bar since Reconstruction. In 1900, to commemorate Lincoln’s birthday he wrote the poem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which was later adopted by the NAACP as the “Negro National Hymn.”

in 1906, through Booker T. Washington’s influence, he received a consular post from the Roosevelt administration. While serving at the Venezuelan consulate in Puerto Cabello, Johnson continued to write extensively, and in his three years there he wrote his novel The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man. After a subsequent position with the Nicaraguan consulate, Johnson moved back to New York in 1913 and was made editor of the magazine New York Age, the pre-eminent African-American daily newspaper of its time. He assumed the post of field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1916, becoming the NAACP’s first African-American executive secretary. Ever prolific, Johnson compiled three anthologies of African-American poetry and spirituals and continued to publish his own work even while devoting his career to activism.

He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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Booker T. Washington Playground

While a dean at the newly founded Tuskegee University in Alabama, Washington (1856-1915) delivered his famous speech “The Atlanta Compromise” in which he argued that the problems of African Americans could be greatly reduced through vocational training and economic self-reliance. The speech drew accolades from many people of all ethnic groups. Some intellectuals, however, criticized Washington as too moderate. Washington drew fire from W. E. B. DuBois for his beliefs; DuBois believed economic reform without social reform to be an acceptance of subordination. Despite some criticism, Washington continued his work and founded several organizations including the National Negro Business League. He also authored many books including The Future of the American Negro (1899), Up from Slavery (1901), Life of Frederick Douglass (1907), The Story of the Negro (1909), and My Larger Education (1911).

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Louis Armstrong Stadium and Community Center

Louis Armstrong Stadium, located at the north end of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park near Shea Stadium, is dedicated to the legendary jazz musician Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong (1901–1971). By the time Armstrong settled in Corona, Queens, “Satchmo” (short for “satchel mouth”, an apparent play on his breath capacity when playing his instruments) had become an international celebrity. He played with such legends as Bessie Smith (1894–1937), Glenn Miller (1904–1944), and Bing Crosby (1903-1977).

Cutting records, performing for royalty, filming movies, and playing in bands small and large, Armstrong traveled an average of 300 days out of the year. Armstrong is also honored with a large-scale painted cast-iron and welded steel abstract sculpture at the Louis Armstrong Community Center on 108th Street in Corona, Queens, a short walk from Armstrong’s last home. The piece, Little Dances, was sculpted by Howard McCalebb (born 1947), and pays homage to Armstrong with an open composition of tubular steel painted bright green, with raised text on a cylindrical base, that transposes the jazz musician’s musical interpretation into free form in space.

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Visit the community center.

James A. Bland Playground

James A. Bland (1854-1911) was a Flushing native who was known as the “world’s greatest minstrel man.” A self-taught musician, Bland wrote more than 700 songs and, at the height of his career, he earned over $10,000 a year on tours. From 1882 until 1901, Bland traveled all over Europe, enjoying tremendous popularity and performing for a number of dignitaries, including Queen Victoria and Prince Edward of Wales.

Unfortunately, when he returned home to America, he had difficulty acclimating to the new vaudeville-style and lost the rights to almost all of his songs. He died alone in Philadelphia. Only later was his genius recognized by music scholars.

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Ella Fitzgerald Playground

Ella was a Jazz vocalist and music icon. She lived in the landmarked Addisleigh Park section of Queens for many years. Underhill Playground in Queens was recently renamed in her honor.

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Gwen Ifill Park

Gwen Ifill was born in Jamaica, Queens, and was a leading journalist, television broadcaster, and author. She was the first African American woman to anchor a nationally televised U.S. public affairs program, Washington Week in Review. Later, she co-anchored PBS NewsHour. Gwen Ifill Park is currently undeveloped and there is $21 million in Capital funding to build out this greenspace.

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Political Figures

Helen Marshall Playground

Helen Marshall was the first African American Queens Borough President and served on both the New York State Assembly and New York City Council. Borough President Marshall had a strong connection to East Elmhurst Playground as she lived nearby, and personally worked in and supported the playground’s various family and community events often.

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Roy Wilkins Recreation Center

In 1931, Roy Wilkins (1901-1981) began his career with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Wilkins rose to the position of NAACP President and was its guiding force from 1955 to 1977. As president, he worked tirelessly to promote voter rights legislation, fair housing laws, and equity in wages. During his tenure, he received the Spingard Medal, the highest award given by the NAACP. From 1934 through 1949, Wilkins also served as editor of The Crisis, a magazine founded by W.E.B. Dubois. Upon Wilkins’s death in 1981, President Ronald Reagan called for American flags to be flown at half-mast.

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Malcolm X Promenade

This scenic promenade located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park is now named in honor of leading Civil Rights activist, African American Muslim leader, and spokesman for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X. At the time of his assassination, Malcolm X lived with his family in East Elmhurst, Queens.

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Public Servants

David Dinkins Circle at Flushing Meadows

A circular promenade in Flushing Meadows Corona Park honors David N. Dinkins (1927-2020) who was the first Black mayor of New York City. He served in this office from 1990 to 1993.

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Tepper Triangle

This triangle honors Queens resident Bernard Adolph Tepper (1925–1966), one of twelve New York City firemen killed fighting a blaze on 23rd Street and Broadway in Manhattan on October 18, 1966.

Tepper joined the New York City Fire Department in 1955. He was actively involved with his community, serving as a Cub Scout Coordinator from 1959–62, as a member of the United Civic Association of Baisley Park, Queens, and on the Executive Board of the Parents Association of P.S. 131 in Queens. The park was named for Bernard Tepper on April 14, 1967. 

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Detective Keith L Williams Park

Detective Keith L. Williams (1954-1989) was a dedicated officer and New Yorker and started the Keith Roundball Classics, a basketball tournament in Liberty Park. He also sponsored an after-school program at P.S. 116. He received two Excellent Police Duty citations and was honored posthumously with the Medal of Honor in 1990. Williams was killed on November 13, 1989, while transporting a prisoner from court to Riker’s Island.

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Lewis H. Latimer House

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928), an African-American inventor and electrical pioneer and the son of fugitive slaves, lived in the house from 1903 until his death in 1928. During his career, he worked with three of the greatest scientific inventors in American history, including Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram S. Maxim, and Thomas Alva Edison. He played a critical role in the development of the telephone and, as Edison’s chief draftsman, he invented and patented the carbon filament, a significant improvement in the production of the incandescent light bulb.

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Sports Professionals

Arthur Ashe Stadium

This stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park honors tennis player Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (1943-1993). At the 1968 U.S. Open, Ashe defeated several competitors to win the men’s singles title. By 1975, he was ranked the number-one tennis player in the U.S. and became the first African American to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

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Community Figures

Harris Brothers Park

Located at Drumgoole Road West, the formerly named Carlton Park is now named in honor of brothers Moses and Sylas Harris. Moses and Sylas Harris were brothers and freed Black farmers who settled the community in southern Staten Island known as Harrisville or Sandy Ground. Last year, Parks renamed Fairview Park the Sany Grounds Woods in honor of the free black settlement where the Harris brothers lived.

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Rev. Dr. Maggie Howard Playground

Rev. Howard was a beloved Stapleton community activist and Senior Pastor of Stapleton UME; the oldest African American church in Staten Island.

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Bobbie Lewis Jr. Playground

Bobbie Lewis Jr. (1968-2019) was an all-star athlete and referee who mentored youth in the Mariners Harbor area of Staten Island. A lifelong resident of Staten Island, Lewis attended Port Richmond High School where he played on the varsity basketball team as the star point guard. After graduating in 1987, he brought his love of basketball to the Catholic Youth Organization where he became a referee.

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Military Heroes

Corporal Thompson Park

West New Brighton’s Corporal Thompson Square was named for Corporal Lawrence Thompson, the first African American from Staten Island to be killed in the Vietnam War. Corporal Thompson enlisted in the Marine Corps and served with the honor guard in Vietnam. Refusing a medical discharge for a foot ailment, Thompson re-enlisted for a second tour of duty and was killed in action in 1967.

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Audre Lorde Walk at Silver Lake Park

Audre Lorde was a Black lesbian feminist, activist and writer. She lived on Staten Island from 1972-1987, and at the time of her death she was the New York State poet laureate.

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Related Links

Black History in NYC Parks
Parks Historical Signs


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