Black History in NYC Parks

Learn about the Black experience in the United States and how New York City honors Black history in our parks today. 

Black History Month Events and Virtual Exhibits

protesters holding signs that read Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter march along a strip between a park and street

Celebrate Black History Month at NYC Parks! This February, check out our upcoming history tours, art exhibits, and virtual celebrations honoring Black culture, history, and legacy. Find Black History Month events at NYC Parks

Art in the Parks Honoring the Black Experience

From monuments of our heroes to sculptures memorializing the Black experience, we’ve many art in our permament collection across NYC that commemorate Black history. Here’s a sampling of Art in the Parks honoring the Black experience

Photos: The Black Experience in NYC

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

A mural in a playground area of Bill Bojangles Robinson opposite the park sign that bears his name

Many parks and playgrounds are named for celebrated African-American people, 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

Join a tour of Cedar Playground with the Urban Park Rangers

Juneteenth Grove

On June 19, 2020, in celebration of Juneteenth and to celebrate the homegoing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, NYC Parks created the Juneteenth Grove in Cadman Plaza. The grove is dedicated in solidarity with the Black community to the fight to end systemic racism. Learn more about the Juneteenth Grove

New York's Municipal Slave Market

On Wall Street, between Pearl and Water Streets, a market that auctioned enslaved people of African ancestry was established by a Common Council law on November 30, 1711. This slave market was in use until 1762. Within months of the market's construction, New York's first slave uprising occurred a few blocks away on Maiden Lane, led by enslaved people from the Coromantee and Pawpaw peoples of Ghana. Learn more about New York's Municipal Slave Market

Power to the People: Protests and Demonstrations in NYC Parks

Our parks serve as places of assembly and calls to action. Take a look at photos from a sampling of marches, parades, and protests in our parks, including the protests by the Black Lives Matter movement. View the 'Power to the People' virtual exhibit

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

Underground Railroad

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 enslavement in the South to seek freedom in the North. 

Historically Black Neighborhoods

Seneca Village

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 history tour with the Urban Park Rangers

Sandy Ground

Sandy Ground on Staten Island is the oldest continuously inhabited free Black settlement in the United States. Several of the community's historic structures are still extant, including five that have been designated as New York City landmarks. These landmarks include a church, a cemetery, and three homes. There are some residents who still live in the original community. In 2020, Fairview Park's wooded area was named Sandy Grounds Woods in its honor. Learn more about Sandy Ground Woods

Weeksville

After the abolition of slavery in New York State in 1827, Brooklyn became a popular settlement area for freed Black people. 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

Foley Square

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

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