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NYC's Early African American Settlements: Sandy Ground

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

Sandy Ground


Arthur Kill, Staten Island Oyster Trade (1924) by Percy Loomis Sperr / Milstein Division of United States History, Local History, and Genealogy


Books & Clippings


“Neighborhood in south-western Staten Island, centered at Bloomingdale Road between Rossville and Charleston. Settled in the 1830’ was known as Harrisville and then as Little Africa before being given its current name because of the poor quality of its soil...The early settlers included a few local families along with oystermen from New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland, who were attracted by the rich oyster beds in the area and by business opportunities not available in the South. The area was served by the Underground Railroad, and the Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church (1850) at Bloomingdale and Woodrow roads became a community center...A fire in 1964 destroyed many dwellings.

[Today] new housing developments stand by the church...most blacks moved as real estate prices rose, but return to attend church services and to affirm their historical connections.  [There is] a small museum run by the Sandy Ground Historical Society, which was formed in 1979… The neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site in 1982.”


Encyclopedia of New York / Kenneth Jackson



Map of Staten Island, Richmond Co. / H.F. Walling (1859)

Digital Collections Image
Note -  names of property owners William H. Pitts pastor A.M.E. Zion Church; A.M.E. Zion Church members  M. Purnell, E. Bishop, and J. Bishop near main east/west road in the village of Woodrow, Westfield Town; “
Meth. Church Cemetery” (A.M.E. Zion Church Cemetery) at the corner of Church and Amboy Rd in Tottenville inset map


Atlas of Staten Island, Richmond Co. / F. W. Beers (1874) Sec. 31

Digital Collections Image
Note - “Cemetery M. E. Church” [A.M.E. Zion] at the corner of Church and Amboy Rd


Map of Staten Island...with ye old names & nicknames / Charles Leng (1896)
Note - Toponym “Africa”, “Little Africa” , and “Sandy Ground” by Harrisville

Atlas of the borough of Richmond, NYC / Robinson (1898) pl. 24 & 25

Note - Zion A.M.E. Church which was a known stop on the Underground Railroad