They (literally) built a park on top of Black bodies
Central Park was built on the backs of Black people. There’s an actual Black neighborhood under the park.
Gentrification is nothing new, but did you know New York’s Central Park was built right on top of a black community?
While most newspapers of the time referred to the well-established minority community as “the insects,” and justified the city takeover by qualifying the grounds as a “wasteland” of “squatters,” the truth tells otherwise. Seneca Village, at the time of its destruction in 1855, was actually a Black settlement with 264 residents, three churches, two schools and three cemeteries. Of the 100 Black men who qualified to vote in New York City in 1850, ten of them lived in Seneca Village. Though it eventually grew to contain 30% of Irish settlers, the community remained predominantly Black- and it thrived.
There are no photographs of Seneca Village as photography was on the cusp of its very own beginnings, but an exhibition from the late 1990s was able to depict some images of what the village may have looked like based on historical data. Though curators use name records and newspaper clippings to link stories together, much still remains unknown. However, what they have found evidence for is the fact that after a survey of 34,000 lots in and around Seneca Village, the city evicted the inhabitants in 1855 – sometimes through the use of force. The New York legislature authorized the taking of the land by eminent domain and property owners filed court orders to try to save their land.
But to no avail.
“Today marks the end of an important excavation of New York City’s Central Park to uncover the remnants of Seneca Village, an African-American community founded in the 19th century. Researchers from the Institute for the Exploration of Seneca Village History have been digging for weeks to find clues about the village, which was founded in the 1820’s and destroyed by the construction of New York’s iconic park in the 1850s.”