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. 

Statue of Frederick Douglass. The hand of the statue rests on a pedestal

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. 

Learn more about the Fredrick Douglass Memorial

statue of duke ellington standing next a grand piano. The statue and piano stands on three columns

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. 

Learn more about the Duke Ellington Statue

statue of a figure of a man carved out from a bronze monolith against the backdrop of a park

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.

Learn more about the Ralph Ellison Memorial

stainless steel bust of Reverend Benjamin Lowry

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. 

Learn more about Reverend Benjamin monument

bust of Dr. Ronald McNair in a triangular shaped monument meant to depict a space shuttle. The monument stands at a central point in the park

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.

Learn more about the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Monument

Giant statue of Harriet Tubman in a parkland at an intersection

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. 

Learn more about the Harriet Tubman Memorial

bust of Jackie Robinson against a brick wall in the rec center

Jackie Robinson* 

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.

Learn more about the Jackie Robinson bust

The statue depicts Pee Wee Reese embraces Jackie Robinson

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.

Learn more about the Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese monument

Bronze monument of Sojourner Truth talking at a table where Susan B. Anthony is standing and organizing and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing

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.

Learn more about the Women's Rights Pioneers Monument

A classical nude sculpture of a human figure. One hand is extended to the sky as the figure looks up and the other is anchored to the side

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.

Learn more about the Arthur Ashe Memorial

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.

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Triumph of the Human Spirit, Foley Square

Triumph of the Human Spirit, Foley Square

Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson Mural, Bill 'Bojangles' Playground

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Mural, Bill "Bojangles" Playground

More Art in the Parks by Black Artists

Visit these parks to explore artworks in our collection by Black artists. 

Permanent Collection

Current Exhibitions

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Peter and Willie Monument, Prospect Park

Peter and Willie Monument, Prospect Park

I Am Free by Alex Reynoso, Col. Young Playground

I Am Free by Alex Reynoso, Col. Young Playground

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