This Day in Black History: Jan. 20, 1838

Weeksville, Brooklyn, an African-American community in New York, is founded.

Posted: 01/20/2013 08:00 AM EST
This Day in Black History: Jan 20, 1838 Weeksville Brooklyn

James Weeks found himself a free Black man when slavery ended in New York State in 1838. He purchased land from another free Black named Henry C. Thompson. This sale established the beginnings of a thriving self-sufficient African-American enclave in Brooklyn called Weeksville.

The African-American Registry acknowledges Jan. 20, 1838, as its founding date. Slaves escaping from the South found a home in Weeksville. For Blacks in New York, it was the safest place in the city to have a quality of life away from racism.

By 1850, it was the second largest independent Black community in pre-Civil War America. Weeksville had its own churches, schools, businesses and newspaper, the Freedman’s Torchlight. Almost 500 families lived in Weeksville. Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward, the first female Black physician in New York, was one prominent citizen who took residence here.

By the mid-1950s the community had been forgotten. But today the Weeksville Society is active in restoring old buildings and holding events educating the current surrounding areas on its legacy. 


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(Photo: Weeksvillle Heritage Center/Facebook)

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