Before Central Park was built, a historically black community was destroyed.
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If you’ve been to New York, you’ve probably visited Central Park. But there’s a part of its story you won’t see.
It’s a story that goes back to the 1820s, when that part of New York was largely open countryside. Soon it became home to about 1,600 people. Among them was a predominantly black community that bought up affordable plots to build homes, churches and a school. It became known as Seneca Village. And when Irish and German immigrants moved in, it became a rare example at the time of an integrated neighborhood.
Everything changed on July 21, 1853. New York took control of the land to create what would become the first major landscaped park in the US — they called it “The Central Park.”
In the Vox series Missing Chapter, Vox Senior Producer Ranjani Chakraborty revisits underreported and often overlooked moments from the past to give context to the present. Join her as she covers the histories that are often left out of our textbooks. Our first season tackles stories of racial injustice, political conflicts, even the hidden history of US medical experimentation.
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The Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History website: http://projects.mcah.columbia.edu/seneca_village/
The exhibit on Seneca Village through the Central Park Conservancy: https://www.centralparknyc.org/programs/discover-seneca-village
Check out the 1856 before and after Central Park plans at the New York Public Library, as well as dozens of other Central Park maps and archives: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/6850fc74-5e61-8806-e040-e00a18067a2c
Read the full report on the 2011 Seneca Village excavations: http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/arch_reports/1828.pdf
Read the New York Times’ coverage of Seneca Village: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/28/opinion/seneca-central-park-nyc.html
Read The Park and the People by Elizabeth Blackmar and Roy Rosenzweig for a comprehensive history of Central Park, including Seneca Village: https://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/9780801497513/the-park-and-the-people/
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