SAM GREENLEE The Legendary Author of The Spook Who Sat By The Door.
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About the AuthorDigital Radio Broadcaster, VideoCaster, Website Designer and just a all around good guy who is into communications technology.
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By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
Credit Mario Tama/Getty Images Q. Near the West 85th Street entrance to Central Park, there is what appears to be the corner of a foundation. What was it?
A. The foundation is a testament to Seneca Village, one of the first communities of black landholders in New York, which was destroyed in 1857 to create Central Park.
In 1853, after weighing several options for a great municipal park modeled after those of London and Paris, city officials selected a mostly vacant tract of land between Fifth and Eighth Avenues, and 59th and 106th Streets.
While more than 1,600 people lived in the footprint of the future Central Park, including the nuns of the Academy of St. Vincent and a number of farmers, the nearly 300 residents of Seneca Village represented the most concentrated population.
Seneca Village was between about West 81st and 89th Streets, and what would have been Seventh and Eighth Avenues, southwest of today’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. The site is marked with a plaque honoring the community’s history.
It’s easy to see why the city picked this terrain for a park: the ground undulates, and bedrock pokes through at regular intervals. In other words, it’s not the easiest place to build the dense housing required by a growing city.
Neither housing nor open space was much of a concern in 1825, when a black shoeshiner named Andrew Williams bought three lots there; the area was several miles from the center of New York City, then concentrated below 14th Street. Several other black residents soon joined him in buying property, as did the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, whose building likely sat atop the foundation. (Seneca Village eventually boasted three churches, one of which housed Colored School No. 3.)
While living conditions in Seneca Village were far better than those of other black areas, like the infamous Five Points, getting the right to vote also served as an enticement to owning land.
From 1799 to 1827, New York State gradually eliminated slavery. The transition included an 1821 law that gave suffrage to free black males — provided they owned at least $250 worth of property. By 1845, more than 10 percent of the city’s black voters lived in Seneca Village.
Seneca Village is usually remembered as a free black community, but by the end of its existence, nearly a third of its population was white — mostly Irish immigrants who had escaped the potato famine, along with a few Germans.
In the debate over where to place the great park, however, uptown landowners and newspapers painted the village as a shantytown at risk of becoming the next Five Points, occasionally describing it with racial slurs.
The initial choice was along the waterfront on the Upper East Side, but those landowners had enough clout to make the city look elsewhere, unlike the residents of Seneca Village.
The state authorized the city to claim the land through eminent domain, reportedly undervaluing many properties. The community disbanded, failing to form again elsewhere. Researchers have yet to identify any living descendants of Seneca Village’s black residents.Post Views: 388
Joe Brown, of the syndicated television program, “Judge Joe Brown,” discusses presiding over the final trial of convicted King assassin James Earl Ray.By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
Judge Joe Brown discusses his findings after seeing the evidence, that James Earl Ray couldn’t have killed Dr. King. Tell us your comments.Post Views: 371
By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
In 2014 Oregon State University received the African American Railroad Porter Oral History Collection. The audio recordings made between 1983 and 1992 tell the stories of Black railroad porters in Oregon in the early and mid-twentieth century.
The collection includes 29 reel-to-reel tapes of interviews conducted by filmmaker Michael Grice that were used as background for his documentary Black Families and the Railroad in Oregon and the Northwest.
Now the university has received a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to digitize the collection and create a website to feature the digitized recordings and their transcripts.Post Views: 372