New York

Where to Learn About NYC's Black History

From museums to burial grounds, important landmarks and destinations across the boroughs.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library

From descendents of enslaved Africans who established NYC’s first Black settlement (“Land of the Blacks”) during the 17th century, to the Great Migration and growing communities of immigrants from the Caribbean and continental Africa, Black history in NYC coincides with the history of the city itself.

Currently, the city’s 1.9 million Black residents make up 22% of NYC’s population made up of a diverse array of residents (from Black American to Trinidadian to West African et al) that express their various cultures through music, art, dance, and food across the five boroughs. And to honor the journeys of past generations, whether it’s through museums or landmarks showcasing individuals and events that have shaped the city, we’ve compiled 13 places in NYC to learn about Black history. From Underground Railroad sites to historic houses, celebrate the undeniable impact of Black culture in NYC all year round, and be sure to dine at these stellar Black-owned restaurants between visits.

Archie Spigner Park (Formerly Addisleigh Park)

Sayres Ave & 172nd St, St. Albans, Queens
Addisleigh Park in St. Albans, Queens, is a historic neighborhood once famous for its African American jazz musician residents like Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane, along with other luminaries like Lena Horne and Jackie Robinson. In the early 1940s, even with widespread Jim Crow laws in the United States that forbade them from living in neighborhoods with a majority white population, African American musicians and families began moving into this racially restrictive area. By 1948, the Supreme Court case of Shelley v. Kraemer ruled these racial restrictions as unconstitutional, and African Americans moved into the area seduced by its seclusion and space. Renamed in 2022 by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreations as Archie Spigner Park, a Musician’s Oval was unveiled to honor the numerous Black jazz celebrities who once called Addisleigh Park home.

African Burial Ground National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument
African Burial Ground National Monument

African Burial Ground National Monument

290 Broadway, Civic Center, Manhattan
Near the Jacob Javits Federal Building on Broadway and Reade lies the remains of over 10,000 enslaved and free Africans unearthed in 1991 during building construction. In the 1620s, the Dutch introduced slavery to New Amsterdam (now NYC) and Africans were interred separately on the outskirts of the city, from Dutch colonial era through the British takeover in the 1660s. The burial ground closed in 1794 with the expansion of the city northwards. This five-acre public space is now a National Historic Landmark stretching from Foley Park to City Hall Park, with a granite sculpture memorializing the Middle Passage of Africans to the New World.

El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio

El Barrio

Upper East Manhattan
Stretching several blocks from East 96th to East 125th Street towards the East River, this area was home to predominantly German and Italian immigrants until after World War II, when Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, and Haitian immigrants subsequently arrived. Also known as Spanish Harlem, El Barrio boasts diversity in the form of murals, restaurants, gardens, and community centers, depicting the rich tapestry of Afro-Latin, Latinx, and Caribbean heritage. Virtual tours of the neighborhood are available from El Museo del Barrio, a historic museum showcasing Latinx and Caribbean art.

Lewis Latimer House Museum
Lewis Latimer House Museum
Lewis Latimer House Museum

Lewis H. Latimer House

34-41 137th St., Flushing, Queens
Born in 1848 to parents who were fugitive enslaved people, Lewis H. Latimer served in the Union Navy during the Civil War. He was gifted with engineering abilities and worked for the United States Electric Light Company where in 1879, he patented improvements to the incandescent lighting system that would ultimately be used around the world. The self-taught inventor who was gifted in art and poetry also worked under Alexander Graham Bell and for Thomas Edison as chief engineer. Latimer lived in this home until his passing in 1928. In 1988, the landmarked home was moved to its present location to avoid demolition. Currently, the Lewis H. Latimer House is a cultural institution offering educational programs in science, art, poetry, and is dedicated to innovators of color who have contributed inventions to American life.

caribBEING
caribBEING
caribBEING

Little Caribbean

Flatbush, Nostrand, Utica, and Church Avenues, Brooklyn
Located within Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and its main avenues of Flatbush, Church, and Nostrand, Little Caribbean has the largest and most diverse diaspora of Caribbeans outside the Islands. With plenty of local restaurants, shops, and small businesses, in 2017, Shelley Worrell of caribBEING-an enterprise highlighting Caribbean culture, community, and commerce-led the efforts to designate the community with this special moniker. In November 2021, the MTA also named the Newkirk Avenue Station as “Little Haiti,” recognizing the contributions of the Haitian community as it stands as the biggest immigrant group in Flatbush.

Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Flickr/Wally Gobetz

Louis Armstrong House

34-56 107th Street, Corona, Queens
After growing up in New Orleans, one of the most popular African American jazz trumpeters of his day, Louis Armstrong and his Bronx native wife, Lucille, chose a home in Corona, Queens, as their residence. Today, the Louis Armstrong House is a National Historic Landmark that preserves the legacy of the artist and visitors can listen to trumpet recordings, audio clips of Louis’ voice, and view his Japanese-inspired garden.

Flickr/Diego Maia
Flickr/Diego Maia
Flickr/Diego Maia

Mannahatta Park

Wall Street between Pearl St. and Water St., Manhattan
In 1711, a municipal market auctioning enslaved Africans as laborers was established in Downtown Manhattan, in what is now the Wall Street area between Pearl Street and Water Street. The market also traded corn and grains that were a staple in the colonial-era diet and it continued to function until 1726. Presently, the area is known as Mannahatta Park, an open space with benches and a view of the East River.

MoCADA Museum
MoCADA Museum
MoCADA Museum

Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts

80 Hanson Place, Fort Greene, Brooklyn
Founded in 1999 by Laurie Cumbo, the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) puts on educational programming, art exhibitions, and community events related to issues faced by those of the African Diaspora. Past exhibitions include Playful Rebellion, an interactive game exploring history, heritage, and innovation-and past art presentations include pop up murals and streetside exhibitions. It is open to tour and accepts volunteers for events.

Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy
Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy
Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Conservancy

The Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground

46th Ave. & 164th St. & 165th St, Flushing
Following smallpox and cholera epidemics during the 1840s, the Town of Flushing purchased separate interment land for residents who were concerned about contamination of burial grounds by infected corpses. This land was expressly for the African American and Native American communities-about 60% of the population-as family and church burial plots were overflowing from the epidemics. It’s estimated that the remains of 1,000 people are located here, and in 1914, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreations acquired the site and turned it into a neighborhood green space and playground. After going through several name changes like “Town Ground” and the “Colored Cemetery of Flushing,” the site was officially renamed The Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground in 2009.

Sandy Ground Community/Historical Society

1538 Woodrow Rd., Staten Island
In the 1830s, Sandy Ground was a thriving community of free African Americans and is the oldest, continuously inhabited free Black settlement in the U.S. Like many African American men who initially settled in the area, Captain John Jackson, the first documented Black man to purchase land here, was lured by work and land ownership prospects on Staten Island. Once previously named “Little Africa,” Sandy Ground is on the National Register of Historic Places and descendants of the original settlers still reside in the community. The site is still under archeological study and its museum retains African American traditions like quilt-making, music, and arts, for visitors to experience.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

515 Malcolm X Blvd, Harlem, Manhattan
Founded in 1925 during the Harlem Renaissance by Arturo A. Schomburg, an intellectual born in Puerto Rico to a Black mother and white father, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is devoted to the research and exhibition of materials relating to African American and African Diaspora experiences. Over his years, Schomburg amassed a large collection of books, art, writings, manuscripts and journals, which were purchased by the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library in 1926. The Center is currently open with exhibitions like Boundless: 10 Years of Seeding Black Comic Futures, which documents the evolution of Black comic books via a special festival started in 2013.

The Bowne House and Bowne House Historical Society
The Bowne House and Bowne House Historical Society
The Bowne House and Bowne House Historical Society

Underground Railroad Safe Houses

Flushing, Queens
Flushing, Queens, has been documented as a part of the Underground Railroad-a clandestine network of people, houses, and routes that transported Africans escaping enslavement in the South to freedom in the North-and one of its most important stops was Bowne House. As the oldest building in Queens that was built in 1661, its rich history of three centuries documents the Bowne family’s abolitionist activities and role in anti-slavery movements, and not only is it an official New York City landmark, but it’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. An additional documented historic landmark connected to the Underground Railroad is the Flushing Quaker Meeting House, built in 1694 by John Bowne and other Quakers as a monument to early religious freedom in the colonial United States.

Weeksville Heritage Center
Weeksville Heritage Center
Weeksville Heritage Center

Weeksville Heritage Center

158 Buffalo Ave., Brooklyn
Founded in 1838, Weeksville was named after James Weeks, the first African American man to purchase a plot of land in this area of Brooklyn. Over time, the community grew and became self-sufficient with numerous Black professionals and entrepreneurs, schools, and clubs. In 1863, it served as a safe haven for African Americans fleeing violence in Manhattan and those who participated in abolitionist movements. Over decades, the community faded but in 1968, it was re-discovered by historian James Hurley, who worked with volunteers and researchers to document the history of Weeksville. Remnants of this once-thriving community are seen in the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses, now restored and open at Weeksville Heritage Center. Currently, the center holds Black Diaspora art exhibitions, archival photo collections, and educational programming about the community.

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Kemi Ibeh is a contributor for Thrillist.

New York

Scavenge for Peeps Cookies and More Fun Treats in NYC This Easter

The best Easter desserts in NYC this spring include Easter Bunny Churros and Carrot Cake Macarons.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

As spring makes its way through New York City, not only do we get to enjoy beautiful weather, stunning cherry blossoms, and cool activities priced at $Free.99, but it’s also the perfect time for some limited-edition desserts.

With Easter fast approaching, bakeries are filling their shops with tons of chocolate eggs, carrot cake-flavoured everything and all types of flavours that offer both nostalgia and innovation within the city’s dessert landscape. After you’ve picked up a cake from the city’s best new bakeries, from Easter Bunny Churros to Carrot Cake Macarons, here are 8 Easter desserts to try in NYC right now.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery
Photo courtesy of Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery

Throughout April
Various locations
There’s great news for devotees of Magnolia Bakery’s Classic Banana Pudding: For Easter, the spot is mixing up the iconic dessert’s vanilla pudding with some carrot cake. The Carrot Cake Pudding is filled with freshly grated carrots, coconuts, pineapples, raisins, and walnuts. And if both bananas and carrots aren’t your thing, they’ll be offering their Classic Vanilla Cupcakes in pastel colours with a Cadbury chocolate egg hidden inside.

Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery
Photo courtesy of Funny Face Bakery

Funny Face Bakery

Through Easter Sunday
NoHo and Seaport
Known for their celebrity face and meme-worthy decorated cookies, fans of Funny Face Bakery know that a new fun design is always just around the corner. For Easter, they’ve created the adorable Hoppy Easter decorated cookie that resembles a classic box of marshmallow Peeps. Along with that, they also have the return of their fan-favourite Caramel Pretzel Chip cookie flavour, plus a set of three mini-decorated cookies perfect for gifting.

The Doughnut Project

Friday, April 7 through Easter Sunday
West Village
With the ever-changing flavours at The Doughnut Project, it’s super easy to miss out on trying out a new debut. But this Easter weekend, there will be two new flavours available. One is of course, a carrot cake doughnut topped with a cream cheese glaze, and the other is known as the Doughnut Nest-a French cruller “nest” with a cream-filled doughnut hole “egg” in the centre.

Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour
Photo by Cole Saladino, courtesy of The Fragile Flour

The Fragile Flour

Wednesday, April 5 through Easter Sunday
East Village
For stellar vegan desserts this holiday, head to The Fragile Flour, a plant-based bakery and dessert wine bar. They’re known for going all out for each holiday with a variety of new pastry options that you can pair perfectly with a glass of wine. This Easter, they’ll have a whole dessert menu that’s both delicious and gorgeous for posting on IG. The menu includes Stuffed Carrot Cake Cookies, a Lemon Cake (whole or by the slice), some festive cupcakes, and specialty macarons.

Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate
Photo courtesy of Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate

Through mid April
Midtown
For a luxurious take on Easter chocolates, browse the selections available at Kreuther Handcrafted Chocolate. You can even pick the Easter Signature Chef’s Selection for a special box curated by award-winning chefs. For something other than chocolate, choose between the Carrot Cake Macarons or the cake flavored Easter Marshmallow Trio, both of which are almost too cute to eat.

La Churreria

Throughout April
Nolita
This churro-centric spot is putting the cutest Easter spin on their crispy cinnamon churros by twisting them up into bunnies and bunny ears. At Churreria, choose from a Bunny Churro Lollipop topped with your choice of chocolate or dulce de leche and sprinkles, or the bunny ear churros in the Ube and Matcha ice cream sundae or the Ube Milkshake, both of which are made with ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato.

Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci
Photo by Briana Balducci

Lafayette

Throughout April
NoHo
You’ve surely seen this croissant tons of times while scrolling through IG or TikTok, whether it’s the Pain au Chocolat one or the latest of the month. Known as Supr√™mes, these filled croissants went viral and continue to live up to the hype each time a new flavour comes out. April’s flavour-sour cherry amaretto with a Luxardo custard and toasted almonds. While you’ll have to be super early and wait in line during one of their three drops of the day to get a taste, we promise you it’ll be worth it.

Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain
Photo courtesy of Levain

Levain

Seasonal
Various locations
We all know the iconic cookies from Levain-they’re gigantic, perfectly crispy and chewy, and well worth the long lines. For spring, the shop is launching a new flavour: Caramel Coconut Chocolate Chip. Filled with gooey caramel chips, fresh shredded coconut, and melty dark chocolate, it’s one you’ve got to try while it’s still around. To further celebrate the new season, all of Levain’s storefronts will be decked out in spring floral displays, serving as the perfect backdrop for pictures.

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Alaina Cintron is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Her work can also be found in Westchester Magazine, Girls’ Life, and Spoon University. When she’s not at her desk typing away, you can find her exploring a local coffee shop or baking a new recipe.

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