Art in the Parks Honoring the Black Experience
The art collection in the parks of New York City is a veritable outdoor museum, commemorating people, places, events, and themes of significance in the evolution of the city, nation, and the world. In honor of Black History Month, the selections below have been compiled as a sampling of monuments, sculptures, murals, and plaques, which commemorate Black historical figures and the Black experience; most are also by Black artists.
*includes art by Black artists
Monuments and Sculptures of Black Historical Figures in NYC Parks
Learn about the life and legacy of these incredible history makers and culture shapers, and the stories behind the making of the artworks.
Frederick Douglass Memorial*
Fredrick Douglass Circle, near Central Park, Manhattan
This monument honors abolitionist, writer, orator, and publisher Frederick Douglass. It stands at the gateway to Harlem on Central Park's west side. The memorial includes a complex colored paving pattern that alludes to traditional African-American quilt designs, which was designed by Harlem-based artist Algernon Miller.
Duke Ellington Statue*
Frawley Circle, Central Park, Manhattan
Standing at the gateway to Harlem, at Central Park's east side, is this monumental piece honoring composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington by Sculptor Robert Graham. He's depicted standing next to a grand piano. Ellington lived in Harlem for much of his adult life and he is associated with the Harlem cultural community.
Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison*
Riverside Park, Manhattan
This sculpture honors author Ralph Ellison, who lived opposite this park. It is a literal allusion to Ellison's epic novel, Invisible Man, and was created by Elizabeth Catlett, who drew inspiration from her own experiences with segregation.
Reverend Benjamin Lowry
Lowry Triangle, Brooklyn
This portrait bust honors the Reverend Benjamin James Lowry, the long-time pastor of Zion Baptist Church located nearby the Lowry Triangle.
Dr. Ronald E. McNair Monument*
Dr. Ronald McNair Park, Brooklyn
This artwork depicts physicist and astronaut Dr. Ronald E. McNair who died aboard the Challenger space shuttle when it exploded in 1986. It would have been his second trip to space. Nigerian-born sculptor Ogundipe Fayomi created this monument which sits in his namesake park.
Swing Low: A Memorial to Harriet Tubman*
Harriet Tubman Memorial, Manhattan
This larger-than-life bronze sculpture, by Sculptor Alison Saar, depicts abolitionist organizer and Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman. She was born into enslavement and escaped in 1849 via the Underground Railroad — network of places and people dedicated to helping those enslaved find their way to freedom — spent many years guiding scores of friends and family members to freedom.
Jackie Robinson Recreation Center, Manhattan
This sculptural bust honors Robinson who in 1947 broke the "color barrier" in Major League Baseball when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The piece was created by Sculptor Inge Hardison.
Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese
MCU Park, Brooklyn
This sculpture by William Behrends was inspired by the friendship of two Brooklyn Dodger baseball players, Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, who helped advance integration in the Major Leagues.
Women's Rights Pioneers Monument
Central Park, Manhattan
This new monument by sculptor Meredith Bergmann depicts Sojourner Truth, a Black abolitionist and women's rights activist, alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and honors their efforts in advocating for women's rights. Donated by Monumental Women.
Soul in Flight: A Memorial to Arthur Ashe
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens
Although not a literal representation of the legendary tennis star and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, this sculpture, on the grounds of the National Tennis Center, commemorates his life and legacy as an allegory of grace, power, and aspiration. It was sculpted by Eric Fischl.
Art and Memorials Honoring the Black Experience and Black Historical Figures
Other works representing the Black experience may be found throughout the city. These objects range from plaques and memorials dedicated in honor of important Black figures, to striking and distinct abstract works that convey elements of Black life — from the sorrow and struggle of the Middle Passage to the joy of arts and performance of the Harlem Renaissance.
- Triumph of the Human Spirit*, Foley Square, Manhattan
- 369th Street Infantry Regiment Memorial, Manhattan
- Foley Square Historical Medallions, African Burial Ground, Manhattan
- Tree of Hope*, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Malls, Manhattan
- Tree of Hope Plaque, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Malls, Manhattan
- Bayard Rustin Plaque, Ralph Bunch Park, Manhattan
- Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Mural, Bill Bojangles Robinson Playground, Manhattan
- Frederick Johnson Memorial, Frederick Johnson Park, Manhattan
- Little Dances*, at the Louis Armstrong Community Center, Queens
- Peace Form One*, Ralph Bunche Park, Manhattan
- Shirley Chisholm Plaque, Brower Park, Brooklyn
More Art in the Parks by Black Artists
Visit these parks to explore artworks in our collection by Black artists.
- Richard Howard Hunt, Harlem Hybrid, Roosevelt Triangle, Manhattan
- Otto Neals, Peter and Willie, Prospect Park, Brooklyn
- Melvin Edwards, Tomorrow's Wind, Thomas Jefferson Park, Manhattan
- Nari Ward, Voices 1,2,4, West Harlem Piers, Manhattan
- Karyn Olivier, Tetherball Monument, Hunter's Point South Park, Queens
- Alex Reynoso, I Am Free, Col. Young Playground, Manhattan
- Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine (Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney), Inspired By “What Is Left”, Prospect Park Brooklyn
- Shantell Martin, Big Yard Mural, Seaside Playground, Queens
- Photoville, Citywide