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NYC's Early African American Settlements: Weeksville

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



Dr. Susan Maria Smith McKinney-Steward (1870) / Photographs & Prints Division, Schomburg Center 

Dr. McKinney-Steward was born in Weeksville in March 1847 and became the first African American woman New Yorker to earn a medical degree. McKinney-Steward graduated as class valedictorian in 1869 at the New York Medical College for Women. She was motivated to enter medicine after the death of her brother in the Civil War and the 1866 cholera epidemic that affected Brooklyn.

Books & Clippings


“In the 1830’s, African American land investors organized the community of Weeksville to provide economic, social, and political rights for African Americans. Located four miles east of downtown Brooklyn, Weeksville grew rapidly, in 1855, with a black population of 521, [it] had become the second largest independent African American community in the United States...Its residents originated in various parts of the United States and the Caribbean. Two came from Africa.  

With a high rate of property ownership, [it] became a highly politicized black community, with two newspapers - Freedom’s Torchlight and the National Monitor -- and a host of African American institutions , including several churches, an orphan asylum, and a home for the aged.  Weeksville became a major station on the Underground Railroad, and following the Draft Riots, it became a shelter for refugees from the vicious pogrom in Manhattan. [It] also had the first New York City public school to fully integrate its teaching staff.

Today, four frame houses on Hunterfly Road, maintained by the [Weeksville Heritage Center] represent the historic Weeksville community.”

Slavery in New York / Ira Berlin and  Leslie Harris



Chancery sale of real estate belonging to the heirs of Saml. Garrittsen decd. / (1839)

Note - this map shows a large portion of area that would soon become Weeksville


Sidney’s map of twelve miles around New York / J.C. Sidney (1849)

Digital Collections Image
Note - this is the earliest map with the Weeksville toponym at NYPL, also shows outline of Hunterfly Road and building footprints


Plan of the city of Brooklyn, L.I.  /  William Perris (1855) 

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Note -  although this map was published in 1855 it shows the narrow strips of land and various landowners’ along Hunterfly Rd. who lived in the area at the beginning of the 1800s before it was settled by Weeksville’s black residents 


Higginson’s plan of the city of Brooklyn, L.I.  / J.H, Higginson (1864) 

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Note - Baptist Colored Church near corner of Warren & Utica Aves


Map of the city of Brooklyn / M. Dripps (1869)

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Note - building footprints along Hunterfly Rd; “Sam. Anderson” [ex-enslaved Brooklynite] who lived near Rochester Ave. and the Flatbush Town line; Public Colored School and Public School. No. 2 on Dean between Troy & Albany Aves;  African Baptist Church on Warren St between Utica & Rochester Ave.


Atlas of the entire city of Brooklyn / G.W. Bromley & Co. (1880) pl. 33

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Insurance Maps of New York, Brooklyn / Sanborn Map Co. (1888) Vol. 7 pl. 169, pl. 170

Digital Collections Image plate 169 & plate 170
Note - plate 169: Colored School No. 2, Zion’s Home for the Aged, and Howard Colored Orphan Asylum on the block bound by Troy, Dean, Bergen, and Albany Ave; plate 170: African Baptist Church and Union Bethel Church on Dean St. between Troy and Schenectady Ave.


Detailed estate and old farm line atlas of the city of Brooklyn / G.M. Hopkins (1880) vol. 1 pl. P and pl. I

Digital Collections Image plate P & plate I
Note - plate P: contemporary street grid covering former Hunterfly Rd. (dotted). Also note Colored Church on Prospect Pl. between Utica & Rochester Aves [block 176, lot 17];   plate I: Colored Orphan Asylum & School corner of Dean & Troy Ave. 


Atlas of the city of Brooklyn / Bromley (1893) pl. 24

Note - houses along former Hunterfly Road on block bound by Bergen , Rochester, St. Marks and Buffalo Ave. 


Atlas of the Brooklyn borough of the City of New York / H. Ullitz (1898-99) pl.18

Digital Collections Image
Note - contemporary street grid covering former Hunterfly Rd. (dotted). Also note Colored Church on Prospect Pl. between Utica & Rochester [block 1367, lot 79]