Black History in NYC Parks
Learn about the trials and triumphs of the black experience in the United States and how New York City honors black history in our parks today.
Black History Month Events and Exhibits
Celebrate Black History Month at NYC Parks! This February, join our upcoming history tours, art exhibits, and art workshops honoring black culture, history, and legacy. Find Black History Month events at NYC Parks
Sculptures Honoring the African-American Experience
From sculptures of our heroes to monuments memorializing the black experience, we’ve many permanent sculptures across NYC that commemorate black history. Here’s a sampling of African-American sculptures
Photos: The African-American Experience
Journey through more than 80 years of black culture in New York City, through the lens of our parks. See photos of African-American life at parks
African-American Namesake Parks
Many parks and playgrounds are named for celebrated African-American men and women, from community activists to sports professionals, whose lives helped shape the world we live in today. Take a look at NYC Parks’ African-American Namesake Parks
Historic Happenings in NYC Parks
The Birthplace of Hip Hop
On August 11, 1973, hip hop was born in the Bronx at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue at a rec room party featuring Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc. The party was so popular and crowded, Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell had to move the party over to Cedar Park, at what is now known as Cedar Playground.
Learn more Parks' hip hop history
The Tree of Hope
The original “Tree of Hope” was an elm that stood opposite the famous Harlem Lafayette Theater at 131st Street and Seventh Avenue. The venue was a hot spot for African-American talent and many celebrated performers rubbed the tree for good luck. The tree died but its stump was preserved as a good luck charm. A piece of the trunk from the original elm stands on the Apollo’s stage. To this day, many performers who grace the stage, rub the tree for good luck. Learn more about The Tree of Hope in Harlem
Along the Flushing Freedom Mile, a walking tour of historic Flushing in Queens, Bowne House, the site of Aspinwall House, and Macedonia A.M.E. Church are believed to have been stops on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of sanctuaries for enslaved women and men escaping slavery in the South to seek freedom in the North.
Historically Black Neighborhoods
Seneca Village, which was located from 81st to 89th Streets between Seventh and Eighth Avenues in what is now a section of Central Park, may possibly be Manhattan’s first prominent community of African-American property owners. Beginning in 1825, parcels of land were sold to individuals and to members of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, described as the “largest and wealthiest church of coloured people in this city, perhaps in this country.” In 1853, the state legislature authorized the use of “eminent domain” (the taking of private property for public purposes) to create Central Park.
Learn more about Seneca Village
Join a Seneca Village tour
The Sandy Ground neighborhood on Staten Island (near Bloomingdale Park) was New York's first free African-American founded neighborhood and is the oldest continuously inhabited free black settlement in the United States. On February 23, 1828, nearly eight months after slavery was completely abolished in New York, Captain John Jackson became the first known African-American man to purchase land in the Richmond County area and the first purchase of land in the area now known as Sandy Ground. Sandy Ground was a stop on the underground railroad and may also be the only intact 18th-century, African-American cemetery in America. The community is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Sandy Ground Historical Museum is located within the community at 1538 Woodrow Road.
After the abolition of slavery in New York State in 1827, Brooklyn became a popular settlement area for free blacks. Until the late 1800s, Weeksville, at the junction of modern-day Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and Brownsville, became a growing African-American community and home of prominent black professionals, including New York’s first black physician. Though the dynamic of the neighborhood has since changed, remnants of the historic neighborhood are memorialized in the historic houses, the Hunterfly Road Houses, and nearby Weeksville Playground.
Learn more about Weeksvile
African-American Burial Grounds
In 1991, construction workers rediscovered what is now the New York City African Burial Ground in Manhattan, where as many as 10,000 men, women, and children were interred in the graveyard from the 1690s to 1794 during slavery. Today, the area, which includes Thomas Paine Park, is home to many memorials to enslaved Africans and the African diaspora. In 1993, the burial ground became a National Historic Landmark. Learn more about the African-American Burial Ground in Manhattan
M’Finda Kalunga Garden
This garden in Sara D. Roosevelt Park was once an African-American burial ground that was used in the late 18th and early 19th century, after the African burial ground near city hall closed in 1794. Learn more about M’Finda Kalunga Garden
The Olde Towne Flushing Burial Ground
In the late 1800s, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church had run out of burial space and urged the town of Flushing to reserve a public burial ground for their use. Some 62 percent of the people buried here were Native American or African American, including The Bunn family—whose names appear on the only marked gravestones we know of from this site. Learn more about The Olde Towne Flushing Burial Ground
Slave Burial Ground in Drake Park
Separated from their masters' graves, dozens of enslaved Africans were interred beyond the consecrated ground of Drake Cemetery in the Bronx. The last burial in the Slave Burial Ground reportedly occurred in the 1840s, when the former Leggett slave Aunt Rose was laid to rest next to the enslaved family members and friends with whom she grew up. The Slave Burial Ground was graded away and covered with dirt, gravel or asphalt sometime in the early years of the 20th century succumbing to roadway construction and development prior to the park’s establishment. In 2013, a local history education project conducted with school children at nearby P.S. 48 unearthed much of this forgotten historical chapter. Learn more about the Slave Burial Ground in Drake Park