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NYC's Early African American Settlements: About

Maps, books, and images documenting the city's 17th-19th century Black settlements

NYPL Digital Collections Images


When many people think of African American neighborhoods in NYC they usually start with Upper Manhattan, central Brooklyn, northeastern Bronx. or southeastern Queens and will undoubtedly think of the 20th century growth of African American communities driven by migration from the American South, the Caribbean basin, and more recently from various countries in Africa.  Some researchers are surprised to learn that people of African descent have created ethnic enclaves throughout many of the five boroughs starting in the mid 1600s when the Dutch West India Company controlled the southern tip of Manhattan, again in the early 19th century after New York State abolished the institution of slavery in 1827 on through the immediate decades following the American Civil War.

Locating primary and secondary research material documenting the inception, growth and in some cases the City sponsored destruction of these early black communities can be difficult. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a great place to start your search, however the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, and Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History, and Genealogy at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building also have items worthy of consideration.     


In this guide...

This guide includes links to maps, books, and Digital Collections images available online or at NYPL's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and a brief description of four of the best known pre-20th century African American settlements in NYC:

This guide also includes links to relevant websites as well as useful NYPL catalog subject heading searches and free African Amercian historical databases.

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division Reference Librarians

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Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division Reference Librarians
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
476 Fifth Avenue (42nd St and Fifth Ave)
First Floor , Room 117
New York, NY 10018
(212) 930-0587