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NYC's Early African American Settlements: New Amsterdam's "Little Africa"

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

New Amsterdam

New Amsterdam

Nieu Amsterdam / Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs

The European figures that dominate the foreground and the enslaved Africans laboring in the middle ground appeared in several engravings depicting various parts of the New World. This engraving on copper is probably the second oldest extant view of New Amsterdam. 


Vingboons map of Manhattan, 1639 : a facsimile from the Library of Congress


Digital Collections Image  

Note - location of “F” and its index description that loosely translates to “Quarter of the Blacks, the Company’s slaves”


Manhattan, 1624-1639 /  Edward Van Winkle [Vingboons map - English translation]


Note - “F”- Quarter of the Blacks, the Company’s slaves


Note - farms of “half-free” men of color aka “Negroes Causeway” along Minetta Stream including:  Simon Congo (Varick St. & Houston St. and area by 5th Av. & 16th St.); Paulo D’Angola (West 3rd St. & Sullivan St.); Anthony Portuguese (Washington Square);  Antony Congo (Bowery & Rivington St.); Anthony Domingo (Bayard St. & Mott St.) For more information consult The Iconography of Manhattan Island v.6 p.73-74.


A plan of the City of New York, reduced from an actual survey / T. Maerschalck (1763)


Digital Collections Image  

Note - “Negroes Burial Ground”    



" Little Africa, name given to several black communities in NYC. It was first applied to what became the Five Points, an area composed of land grants made to Africans in [1644 and] 1659 by the Dutch West India Company. This area adjacent to the Collect [Pond], was also known as Stagg Town and remained a mostly African American area until the mid-nineteenth century...The African Burial Grounds was a part of this community.

Encyclopedia of New York / Kenneth Jackson


"Through the language of “half-freedom” Dutch officials sought to exercise a degree of hold on the men and their families, but it was the eventual acquisition of land, stretching from lower Manhattan to midtown, that contributed significantly to the relative autonomy of the African community. Specifically, it is the original lots and farms owned by Africans in the vicinity of Collect Pond --also referred to as Kolchhook or Fresh Water -- northeast of the burial ground; those situated in Chinatown; along the Bowery and in Greenwich Village...The proximity of Africans’ farms to the unguarded perimeters of the [colonial New Amsterdam] settlement provided a buffer between the Dutch and Native American population...Early ground briefs also confirm that Africans farmed the land some time prior to official tenancy as outlined in the 1644 grant of half-freedom.

The African Burial Ground / essay by Emilyn Brown


"In the case of the half-free blacks, the land grants also provided the basis for a relatively independent community. They lived together in families with their wives, if not always with their [enslaved] children. The land they held, near the Fresh Water Pond, was the first geographically designated black community in New York. Other black men and women, freed by the company or by individual slave owners under similar arrangements, joined the original eleven near the Fresh Water Pond so that by 1664 there were at least thirty black landowners on Manhattan Island." 

In the Shadow of Slaver / Leslie M. Harris