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.
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(Photo: Weeksvillle Heritage Center/Facebook)