Developing Reclaiming Black Spaces

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. 


Past a floral archway, a lone chair is seen in the midst of a bountiful, lush garden full of vibrant plants and flowers
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.  

Explore Some Stops

Sites and Resources to Support New York Black History

St Augustine’s of Hippo Episcopal Church 

Lower East Side Girls Club 

Black Gotham Experience 

Weeksville Heritage Center 

Studio Museum in Harlem 

Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture 

Lewis Latimer House Museum 

Jackie Robinson Museum 

Louis Armstrong House Museum 



Lauren O’Brien, Lead Project Scholar, conducted the foundational research on these stories. 

The National Park Service Manhattan Sites has offered their generous support, collaboration and consultation.  

Our former and current staff members, and members of the Tenement Museum’s People of Color Caucus have shaped this project’s vision, interpretation, and place in the museum’s programming 

We also thank these scholars and experts who shared ideas, time, and perspectives with us in the development of this project 


Expert Advisors

Elon Cook Lee, National Trust for Historic Preservation 

Omar Eaton-Martínez, American Alliance of Museums and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission  

Nancy Foner, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College 

Michael Hutchinson Frazier, Historian, African Burial Ground National Monument 

Tamika Guishard, Artist and Filmmaker  

Lorena Harris, National Park Service Manhattan Sites Deputy Superintendent  

Graham Hodges, Professor of History, Africana, and Latin American StudiesColgate University 

Linda Humes, Founder, Yaffa Cultural Arts, Inc. 

Richard Josey, Founder and Principal Consultant, Collective Journeys 

Shirley McKinney, National Park Service Manhattan Sites Superintendent  

Carla Peterson, Author, Black Gotham 

Shelley Worrell, Founder and Chief Curator, caribBEING and Little Caribbean NYC