Got a short fun fact article for you today.
I love finding the hidden treasure of black communities that existed and thrived that we’ll never know about (until we look). I’ve mentioned several of such communities on this blog in the past and here’s another one.
Seneca Village was settled in the 1820s on the eve of Emancipation in New York. The only community of black property in the city at the time, it was located between 82nd and 87th Street east of what is Central Park today.
The Village was a thriving community of blacks (two-thirds) and whites started to settle there as well. The community had its own school and a population of over 250 people. Houses were also built on the land, some of them elaborate two-story with barns and others a bit more modest. This was an achievement because New York, like the rest of the country, was a place of slave-ownership. Contrary to what you’ll learn in school, the South was not the only place to find blacks who were enslaved but many northern cities did as well. In 1703, more than 42 percent of New York City households held slaves and slavery was a key institution in the development of New York. According to The New York Historical Society:
“As many as 20 percent of colonial New Yorkers were enslaved Africans. First Dutch and then English merchants built the city’s local economy largely around supplying ships for the trade in slaves and in what slaves produced – sugar, tobacco, indigo, coffee, chocolate, and ultimately, cotton. New York ship captains and merchants bought and sold slaves along the coast of Africa and in the taverns of their own city. Almost every businessman in 18th-century New York had a stake, at one time or another, in the traffic in human beings. During the colonial period, 41 percent of the city’s households had slaves, compared to 6 percent in Philadelphia and 2 percent in Boston. Only Charleston, South Carolina, rivaled New York in the extent to which slavery penetrated everyday life. To be sure, each slaveholding New Yorker usually owned only one or two persons.”
The only difference between Southern and Northern slavery was that instead of plantations, slaves in the North slept in cellars and attics or above farmhouse kitchens in the country. Nonetheless, the enslaved population of the city was emancipated in 1827 and many of these freedmen comprised the residents of Seneca Village.
The Village’s demise came with the building of what is now Central Park. The government claimed the land under the right of eminent domain and evicted the residents. Since then, Seneca Village has been pretty much forgotten in history. Well, until now.
Don’t forget, you can find all the Black History Fun Fact Articles
under the Black History Fun Fact page in the sidebar.
We are already 17 weeks in since the re-launch of this segment last October. Wow!