Black History: Seneca Village

An entire village in the middle of New York City , owned by Black people,  was destroyed to build Central Park.

In 1825, an African American sanctuary began and spanned from 82nd Street to 89th Street. By 1857, it was gone.

Between the start of the abolition of slavery and complete emancipation the Black population in New York City tripled. Migrants to the city were widely discriminated against in the press and the housing market. It was extremely difficult for Black people to purchase land.

However, in the ‘outskirts’ of Manhattan a white couple was looking into selling a portion of their land and sold half of it to Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams, two members of the The New York African Society for Mutual Relief, and then sold other portion to the AME Zion Church. Black people began to buy land in Manhattan to seek refuge.

Houses, churches, and schools all Black owned were built in  Manhattan.  Half of the African Americans who lived there owned their own property, which was five times higher than the city average. Those that owned land (men) had the right to vote if they owned property over $250. The village also served as a stop along the Underground Railroad.

After the potato famine, many Irish people began to move into Seneca Village as well. In those days, Irish & Black people were looked down upon by the affluent upper societal members aka rich white people. The increasing population growth of Seneca Village left rich white people in the surrounding areas of Manhattan  unhappy.

“Suddenly,” support of creating an official government owned park, in the same location as Seneca Village began to grow (you know why). Then in 1857, the village was seized by the government under the law of eminent domain and was quickly torn down to build Central Park.