In 2017, the Tenement Museum committed to telling broader stories of people who have shaped our city and country. This tour brings Black and African American history into our museum’s stories, and in our work to expand whose stories we tell, we will incorporate research from this project into many of our tours and programs. Our work on this tour also informs the Museum’s new, ongoing commitment to take action against racism and anti-Blackness. We offer our support to the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality and white supremacy; we believe the path forward must be forged by learning from our country’s past.
Local community groups, grassroots preservation initiatives, and Black Lower East Siders know these histories. Communities have fought to be acknowledged, for Black history to preserved, honored, and reclaimed throughout Lower Manhattan. For years, our current and former staff advocated for us to acknowledge Black experiences. We join these efforts now, to learn from them as we develop this tour.
These are a few of the projects preserving Black history in Lower Manhattan:
- St. Augustine’s Project: St. Augustine’s Church, at 290 Henry Street, completed a restoration project of their galleries used by African American congregants during the period of racial segregation just after the abolition of slavery in New York State in 1827.
- Black Gotham Experience: Founded by Kamau Ware, Black Gotham Experience offers programs and tours exploring the impact of the African Diaspora in Lower Manhattan.
- M’finda Kalunga Community Garden: Formed near the site of the Second African Burial Ground in Manhattan, this garden’s name means “Garden at the Edge of the World” in Kikongo, a Bantu language spoken by many of the people buried in this land in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, and offers a memorial to those Black New Yorkers laid to rest here centuries earlier.
- FAB NYC: FABnyc has a history of engaging BIPOC artists to address community issues through public art. FABnyc coordinates The People’s LES and Lower East Side History Month each May, and is producing new creative work on Black histories and communities in the LES.
M’finda Kalunga Community Garden
The stops on this walking tour will examine themes of Black identity formation, community development, Black placemaking, and reimagining Black futures through stories of Black Lower East Siders that span centuries. We invite you, our public, into this process with us, and are eager to share these stories with you.