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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.