The Lost Village

I have never had the chance to visit "The Big Apple" also known as New York City.  Although I believe this was an important piece of history. Central Park was originally called "Seneca Village." Seneca Village was an African American community established by freed slaves. It was Manhattan's first prominent community of black property owners.

Social  and Political Milieu of New York: During the 1800s slavery existed in New York. Many people are not aware of this historical fact. New York was once called "New Amsterdam" due to the Dutch population. Until the end of the American Revolution, New York City was known as the slavery capital of Colonial America.

Seneca Village began in 1825 as a black community. Seneca Village was located approximately on the park's west side, from the Great Lawn to Central Park West, between 82nd & 88th streets. This neighborhood was comprised of the "Black Middle Class" they were property owners. This was an exceptional accomplishment. By 1855 the population increased drastically. 30% of the residents Irish. While two thirds of the population was black.

What Happened & Why Was it Destroyed? According to Barbara Speed "New York destroyed a village full of African-American landowners to create Central Park" during the mid 19th century, New York decided it needed a park. The city had an issue changing the downtown area. She suggests that at the time as the new immigrant population emerged the desired to have a safe location where they could mingle and socialize. In 1851, Ambrose Kingsland, the city's mayor, agreed to create one. Three years later in 1854, the city had selected portions of the land in the center of the island between what is now 59th and 106th streets, and construction on the park began. later it would be extended four blocks further north.

When the decision was to create a park was made, there wasn't enough empty space left in Manhattan. The city decided to select a portion of land where the largest settlement was "Seneca Village", a population of 264, and the land was seized under the law of eminent domain, so the government can take private land for public purposes. The residents attempted to protest the court for two reasons. The first reason was the level of compensation being offered for their land. The second reason is they did not approve of the compensation being offered for their land.

Toni's Thoughts: I wanted to share this piece of information to point racism did exist in the North. Slavery and Jim Crow had cousins all across the country.

"New York destroyed a village full of African-American landowners to create Central Park"
Barbara Speed
March 30, 2015
"A Village Dies, A Park Is Born"
Douglas Martin
Published January 31, 1997

Seneca Village Project


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