African-American Culture, Past and Present, at Weeksville

Period photos (Courtesy of Weeksville Heritage Center via Bklyner)

Weeksville Heritage Center’s new interim executive director, Rob Fields, has plans for events that reflect the diversity of African-American culture, reports Chris Farrell in Bklyner.

November’s events at the Center include a poetry workshop with Negus Adeyemi, who won Weeksville’s annual poetry slam, and the monthly meeting of the THNK Book Club. They will also host a discussion on choosing a school for your child in Central Brooklyn and a presentation about how Sudanese Americans living in New York will be affected by Trump’s travel ban, part of a series of conversations taking place throughout the city.

Weeksville was founded as an African-American community  in 1838 to support the struggle for African-American suffrage in New York state, following the end of slavery in the state, which took effect in 1827 (although in 1830 there were still 30 people in New York waiting for emancipation).

In the midst of this process, New York changed its legal qualifications for voting. In 1826, the state constitutional convention removed the existing property requirements for white men, granting them universal suffrage, but for African-Americans, only men who owned property worth $250 or more had the right to vote.

That motivated James Weeks, a stevedore, and several other African-American investors, to purchase tracts of land in Brooklyn’s Ninth Ward. They divided their purchases into smaller plots that would meet the $250 property threshold for voting rights and advertised for other black families to make their homes in the neighborhood, which soon became known as Weeksville.

Weeksville quickly became economically self-sufficient, politically important, and a vital space of refuge. It was home to the Bethel Tabernacle AME Church and the Berean Missionary Baptist Church, Colored School No. 2, the Zion Home for the Colored Aged and the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum.

Houses that were part of the original community stand alongside the Weeksville Heritage Center. Go to Bklyner to learn more about Weeksville’s history, and about artifacts that have been found at the site, including striking images.

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