Celebrating Culture: Honoring Black Music

From the Harlem Renaissance to the emergence of Hip-Hop, New York City’s rich musical heritage is deeply embedded in the American identity. The roots of the American sound often trace back to Black artists who pioneered modern genres including jazz, rock, R&B, house, and hip hop. These musical styles continue to deeply influence and define our nation's culture and history as the soundtracks of our celebrations, inspiration, moments of solace, and fight for change.

Many artists, across genres and generations, from Jimi Hendrix to Aretha Frankin to Jay-Z, have used our parks as backdrops for their legendary performances, and many of the faces of these genres grew up in NYC neighborhoods and parks.

Learn about parks named after legendary Black artists and check out our playlist honoring the musical contributions of Black NYC artists:

Parks Named After Black Music Artists

Discover some of the parks that honor these legendary artists:

Betty Carter Park, Brooklyn

Betty Carter (1929-1998) is a legendary, Grammy Award-winning 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. 

Learn more about Betty Carter Park

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Playground, Manhattan

Bill Robinson (1878-1949) was a tap dancer, recording artist, actor, the "Mayor of Harlem", and the highest-paid Black American entertainer in the early 20th century. He is famously known for dancing in live theatrical shows, starring in movies such as Stormy Weather, and performing in The Hot Mikado at the 1939-40 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Learn more about Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Playground

Christopher "Biggie" Wallace Courts, Brooklyn

The basketball courts at Crispus Attucks Playground are named for world-renowned, Grammy-nominated rapper and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Christopher "Biggie" Wallace (1972-1997), who lived a few blocks away on St. James Place. He played basketball on these very courts while growing up in Bed-Stuy. His legendary music style has become synonymous with East Coast- and New York-style rap. 

Learn more about the Christopher "Biggie" Wallace Courts

Duke Ellington Memorial, Central Park, Manhattan

Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was a legendary jazz musician and composer and one of the most recognizable and influential artists from the Harlem Renaissance. He is considered one of the originators of big band jazz and has earned 12 Grammy awards. One of his most famous tunes is "Take the A Train".

Learn more about the Duke Ellington Memorial

Greg Marius Courts, Manhattan

The basketball court at Holcombe Rucker Park is named in honor of Greg Marius (1958-2017) of hip hop group Disco Four from Harlem. Marius founded the Entertainers Basketball Classic which was originally held at Fred Samuel Playground before Rucker Park became its official home. Since its founding, NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Lebron James have held court at the Classic. 

Learn more about the Greg Marius Courts

Johnny Hartman Square, Manhattan

Johnny Hartman (1923-1983) was a distinguished, Grammy-nominated jazz singer. His discography includes collaborations with jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Errol Garner, and avant-garde saxophonist John Coltrane.

Learn more about Johnny Hartman Square

Louis Armstrong Stadium, Playground, Community Center at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens

Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) is a world-renowned trumpeter and one of the most influential and innovative jazz artists of all time. In 1964, he won Best Male Vocal Performance for "Hello, Dolly!" and many of his recordings have since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He lived in Corona, Queens. 

Learn more about Louis Armstrong

Celebrating Black Music Month

June is presidentially-proclaimed a month for formally celebrating Black American music and its influence on our nation's history and culture. In honor of Black Music Month, listen to our favorite hits from Black NYC artists:

Features

Birth of Hip Hop

Hip hop was born in 1973 at a rec room party in the Bronx that turned into an epic park jam!

Hip hop was born in 1973 at a rec room party in the Bronx that turned into an epic park jam! 

Learn about this historic day and our hip hop history

Tree of Hope

The original Tree of Hope was an elm tree in Harlem that Black entertainers rubbed for good luck. Although the tree died, a permanent sculpture stands in its place in honor of its legacy.

The original Tree of Hope was an elm tree in Harlem that Black entertainers rubbed for good luck. Although the tree died, a permanent sculpture stands in its place in honor of its legacy.

Learn more about the Tree of Hope

Was this information helpful?