Black History Month: 28 Historical Sites in NYC

In honor of Black History month, we have compiled 28 sites across New York City (NYC). All throughout the city are historic sites where black influential figures lived and worked. Black Americans and people of African Descent have made enormous contributions across the five boroughs. 

As a way of honoring those who contributed to our history and the enrichment of our lives through civil rights and social justice we’ve compiled a list of sites to explore.

Here is our guide to Black historic sites in New York City across the five boroughs, including both landmarked and un-landmarked sites. Some have historic plaques, While others do not. 

Langston Huges House 

20 West 127th Street — Harlem

Author, poet, playwright, and social activist Langston Hughes was one of the most influential leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. For 20 years, Hughes resided in Harlem, occupying the top floor of a three-story brownstone.

He penned I Wonder As I Wander, A Pictorial History of the Negro in America and Black Nativity. Some of his most celebrated literary works. In 2019, his former home was one of 22 sites awarded a National Trust for Historic Preservation grant through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church

85 South Oxford Street — Fort Greene

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (LAPC) is a place for refreshing, spirited community engagement. It is a dynamic, multi-racial, multi-cultural church nestled in the center of Brooklyn’s historic Fort Greene neighborhood.

This historic church and its congregation have long been the vanguard in the area of social justice. Since its inception, the legacy of progressive leadership at LAPC has created and provided a community hub for social justice and advocacy among neighbors, the broader community, and the world.

Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture

In January 2017, Harlem’s Schomburg Center officially declared a National Historic Landmark. But the public library has preserved and protected narratives from the Black experience for almost a century. 

Studio Museum in Harlem

144 West 125th Street — Harlem

Like most Black cultural institutions, the Studio Museum was born out of necessity. In 1968, following the expansion of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, a collective of local artists and activists wanted to provide a way to support other emerging artists of color and promote arts education. To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the museum broke ground on an 82,000-square-foot expansion that, when complete, will feature a rooftop terrace, a welcome center, and café. And increased indoor and outdoor space for exhibitions, performances, screenings, and educational programs.

Weeksville Heritage Center

1698 Bergen Street — Weeksville

Founded in 1838, eleven years after New York abolished slavery, Weeksville was one of the first free Black communities in America. Back then, the progressive neighborhood was home to many of the City’s Black abolitionist leaders. They published their own newspaper that featured reading exercises and prayers.

Today, the area’s historical significance is preserved via the Weeksville Heritage Center, a multidisciplinary museum that reimagines what life looked like for free Blacks in Brooklyn before the Civil War.

Addisleigh Park Historic District 

110-40 177th Street — St. Albans

Addisleigh Park is a historic district in the St. Albans neighborhood of Queens that served as the home of many prominent African-American figures and today is an African American and Jamaican enclave. More than 400 houses were built in the area initially as a segregated area for white people. Yet, in the 1930s, this policy was reversed, and many African-American families began to move into the area.

With easy access to Manhattan, the epicenter of the Swing Era, many African-American jazz musicians moved to the suburban haven of Addisleigh Park. Fats Waller, Count Basie, and Ella Fitzgerald each had homes in the area, as well as Jackie Robinson and W.E.B. DuBois. Many of the original homes have been preserved, and the location was declared a historic district in 2011 by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Old Bridge Street Church

The Wunsch Student Center Building in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center, at the former corner of Myrtle Avenue and Bridge Street, was formerly the Brooklyn African Wesleyan Methodist

Episcopal Church, located in this 1847 Greek Revival building. It was the center of a three-day celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation beginning January 2, 1863. One month later, Frederick Douglass gave a speech encouraging African Americans to join the Union ranks in the Civil War. In October 1865, abolitionist Harriet Tubman spoke before a massive crowd. At the time, an 18-year-old Susan Smith McKinney was the church organist. She became the first black female medical doctor in New York State. 

The church provided sanctuary for fleeing slaves before and during the Civil War and blacks escaping the Draft Riots of 1863. As the AWME, it was the first black congregation in Brooklyn. After the AWME moved to Stuyvesant Avenue a few miles to the east, the building spent a few decades as a postcard factory. In the 1990s, it was incorporated into MetroTech and underwent a complete restoration.

Apollo Theater

253 West 125th Street — Harlem

In 1914, when this venue first opened its doors as Hurtig & Seamon’s New (Burlesque) Theater, Black performers and patrons were banned. Twenty years later, the hall would become a safe space for some of the most excellent Black musicians in American history. James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sammy Davis Jr. began their road to stardom on the famed Apollo stage. The theater hosts virtual and live concerts and the signature Amateur Night.

Ebbets Field

1700 Bedford Avenue — Crown Heights

When Brooklyn had a baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field was their home turf. It was a small stadium by today’s standards, with only a 35,000 seat capacity—hardly enough to accommodate the many fans who lined up to see the 1955 World Series-winning Dodgers. But something of much more considerable cultural significance took place at the erstwhile stadium. Ebbets Field is where Jackie Robinson broke the color line when he was signed by the Dodgers, becoming the first black player to play in the major league. Sadly, the stadium was demolished in 1967, and a complex named the Ebbets Field Apartments now sits in its place.

Louis Armstrong House Museum

34-56 107th Street — Corona

Louis Armstrong was one of the most famous musicians in the world when he and his wife, Lucille, settled on their modest digs in the working-class neighborhood of Corona, Queens, in 1943. The house they resided in is now a historic site and interactive museum. The museum is open for in-person tours, and visitors can enjoy virtual programs and exhibits like Cultural After School Adventure, which pays tribute to the trumpeter’s legacy. A new cultural center that will serve as a base for exhibitions and performances will open across the street in spring 2022.

Shirley Chisholm Circle

900 Prospect Place — Crown Heights

At Brower Park in Crown Heights, a commemorative plaque acknowledges the life and achievements of Shirley Chisholm, a tireless champion for equal rights. In 1968, Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress (representing New York’s 12th congressional district for seven terms). And in 1972, she was the first Black woman to make the bid for the US presidency. A proud Brooklynite, Chisholm remained dedicated to serving the community throughout her career. Farther east in the borough, bike-friendly Shirley Chisholm State Park also honors the pioneer.

African Burial Ground National Monument

290 Broadway — Lower Manhattan 

In Lower Manhattan on Duane Street, a six-acre memorial acknowledges the role slavery played in building New York City. The new plot is the largest unearthed burial ground in North America for free and enslaved African descendants. In 1991, a construction crew discovered 419 graves while laying the foundation for a new federal building. Today, screenings, tours, and talks are hosted on the sacred grounds.

Jackie Robinson House

5224 Tilden Avenue — Flatbush

Jackie Robinson House, the home of baseball great Jackie Robinson from 1947 to 1949. The house was constructed around 1912 to 1916, and Robinson would later move to a home in Addisleigh Park, Queens from 1949 to 1955. Robinson was the first African American to play in the MLB, starting at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. At the time, Black baseball players would be relegated to the Negro leagues, yet Robinson would win the Rookie of the Year Award while a resident of the East Flatbush residence. Robinson would win the National League MVP Award in 1949 and be an All-Star for six consecutive seasons.

His uniform number 42 was retired in 1997 across all major league teams. The Jackie Robinson Museum at 75 Varick Street in lower Manhattan was initially scheduled to open this year.

Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational And Cultural Center

3940 Broadway —

This landmarked Washington Heights building has been a fixture in the community for decades. Today, 3940 Broadway is an educational and cultural center dedicated to the legacy of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. Back in the day, it was known as the Audubon Ballroom, a theater, dance hall, and weekly meeting locale for the Organization of Afro-American Unity, founded by Malcolm X. It was here, too, that the activist was assassinated while giving a speech in 1965.

Throop Theater — The Apollo Theater of Brooklyn

1531 Fulton Street — 

The 600-seat Throop Theater was opened by 1914. In 1925 it was enlarged and renamed Apollo Theater, reopening on August 24, 1925. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2 manual seven rank organ. The Island Circuit operated the Apollo Theater. It was closed in 1965.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

405 West 55th Street —

A fixture in NYC since its founding in 1969, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater transcends racial and ethnic groups. Initially, the company comprised young Black modern dancers and was known for classic masterpieces like Revelations. But as the company evolved, so did its mission. Today, the Ailey School has united patrons from across the globe through classes, programs, and performances that preserve the uniqueness of the Black cultural experience.

Fulton Ferry Landing

Old Fulton Street — Brooklyn Bridge Park

The landing was an entryway via boat into Brooklyn Heights for ships leaving the Mid-Atlantic region with escaped slaves. Upon arrival at Fulton Ferry, escapees could receive the cover and various forms of aid in areas of Dumbo, Brooklyn Heights, and other areas in and around Downtown Brooklyn. The Fulton Ferry District is on the National Register of Historic Places. And comprises the ferry landing plus 15 nearby buildings that date back to 1830. Among the area’s associations with the movement for freedom is that it held the (now-demolished) site for the first Brooklyn school for free Blacks.

Minton’s

206 West 118th Street —

Though it’s now one of the city’s best brunch spots, Minton’s in Harlem once was a vibrant jazz club and the birthplace of bebop. Minton’s Playhouse, as it was known, was founded by the first black delegate of the American Federation of Musicians, Henry Minton. Virtually every legendary jazz player—Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, you get the idea—played there at some point in its heyday. Even as a restaurant, Minton’s has preserved its legacy as the birthplace of the jazz boom and features a menu inspired by African American culture.

Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Casually known as “Mother Zion,” this Harlem church was founded in 1796 and was New York City’s first African American church. During the 1930s, the church attracted elite black scholars, entertainers, and civil rights activists. Joe Louis, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and Madame C.J. Walker are just a handful of the many notable figures who attended sermons at Mother Zion.

Black Spectrum Theater

177th Street & Baisley Blvd — Jamaica 

It is located in a recreational complex in Queens’ Roy Wilkins Park. The venue’s commitment to inspire the next generation of directors, performers, and playwrights through its enriching youth and after-school programs.

The theater also hosts stage productions, film screenings, and other performing arts that bring awareness to issues of African American, Caribbean American, and African Latino communities. 

Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute

120 E. 125th Street — Harlem

This multidisciplinary organization is dedicated to presenting and preserving the diverse cultures of the global African diaspora. The center carries out its mission through public art exhibitions, performances, educational programs, workshops, conferences, and international exchanges. Their landmarked building has three art galleries and puts on vibrant programming year-round. Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, and Oshun are among the artists who have been featured here.

Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art

80 Hanson Place — Fort Greene

Honors the African diaspora through visual and performing arts. For 20 years, the creative space has showcased influential works from artists like Jamel Shabazz and Wangechi Mutu, who explore themes relevant to Black communities in NYC and across the globe. For instance, David McDuffie’s rousing black-and-white travel gallery. The Chicago native’s fascinating shots capture subjects in portraits and candids that evoke Black joy.

Sandy Ground Historical Society Museum

1538 Woodrow Road — Rossville (Staten Island)

Sandy Ground is the oldest occupied African American settlement in the country. Founded in the early 19th century by free Blacks from New York, Maryland, and Delaware, the community was a significant stop on the Underground Railroad. Back then. Sandy Ground flourished by harvesting oysters and farming. Today, the neighborhood is home to 10 Black families descendants of the original settlers and a museum that preserves the area’s history through exhibitions, art, photography, and cultural events.

Audre Lorde Residence

207 St. Paul’s Avenue — Tompkinsville (Staten Island)

Feminist, poet, and internationally acclaimed civil rights activist Audre Lorde left Harlem in 1972 for this charming Staten Island abode. With its vast garden and proximity to the water, 207 St. Paul’s Avenue fulfilled both Lorde’s desire to be immersed in nature and her commitment to raising her children in NYC. She authored groundbreaking work (From a Land Where Other People Live, Coal and The Black Unicorn) while living here with her partner, Frances Clayton, until 1987. The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the house a landmark in 2019.

Frederick Douglass Memorial

110th Street & Central Park West — Harlem

This monument at the northwest corner of Central Park honors the illustrious legacy of Frederick Douglass, an orator, writer, and leader in the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery in America. The statue features a paving pattern influenced by traditional African American quilt designs amid historical details and notable quotes. It opened to the public in 2010.

Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground

Oak Point Avenue (bet. Hunts Point Ave. & Longfellow Ave.) — Bronx

In 2014, after discovering a black-and-white photograph captured at the turn of the 20th century, a group of teachers, students, and historians uncovered a lost slave burial ground at Drake Park in the Bronx. On the front of the photo, deteriorating gravestones sit in a patch of grass; on the back, “Slave burying ground Hunts Point Road” is written in cursive. There are 10 to 40 enslaved African descendants buried at this ancestral site.

National Black Theater

2031 Fifth Avenue — Harlem

Mission to “produce transformational theatrical experiences that enhance the African American cultural identity by telling authentic stories of the Black experience,” the National Black Theater has long been a Harlem mainstay. Established in 1968 by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, the venue offers performances, lectures, and a variety of classes that continue to advance the vision of its founder.

Dyckman Farmhouse

The Dyckman Farmhouse is Manhattan’s oldest remaining farmhouse, built around 1785 in the Dutch Colonial style. The home is situated in a small park in Inwood on the corner of Broadway and 204th Street, and today it serves as a New York City Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. William Dyckman, who constructed the home, died just three years after completing the farmhouse. Yet, his son Jacobus would later inherit the house along with his wife Hannah, his eleven children, and several slaves and free blacks. Today, Inwood is home to a forgotten slave cemetery believed to have the remains of a number of the Dyckman family’s slaves.

Sources: Here, Here, Here, Here + Here.

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