Not Your Typical Guide to Black New York

The Black Bucket List heads to New York, where we discover there's so much more to black history than the Harlem Renaissance -- like Do or Die Bed-Stuy circa 1838.

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The community was "rediscovered" by community activists in 1968, and in 2005 the Weeksville Heritage Center restored four houses and opened them to the public. You can now tour the "Hunterfly Road Historic Houses," which feature furnishings, clothing, artifacts and photographs dating back to the 1800s. One of the homes was painstakingly restored and furnished thanks to oral histories offered by members of the Williams family, who lived there for 40 years.

And next year, the center is scheduled to launch a new, 19,000-square-foot education and art center, which will feature a media lab, a research institute and a performance space and exhibition gallery. The center currently hosts concerts, family workshops and a farmers market on summer weekends.

For more information or to take a tour, go to weeksvillesociety.org. It's best to call or email before you go. 

The African Burial Ground National Monument and Visitor Center

290 Broadway, at Duane Street in lower Manhattan

Most people think of slavery as a Southern institution. They have no idea that the slave trade flourished in New York for 200 years. New York state abolished slavery in 1827, one of the last Northern states to do so. 

During construction of a government office building near City Hall, workers discovered human graves about 24 feet belowground. Over the next two years, 419 skeletal remains were removed from what was a 6.6-acre "Negro Burial Ground." It took a loud and sustained protest to halt the excavation and insist that the remains be properly and respectfully cared for. But eventually, the bones and artifacts were transferred to Howard University in 1992 for examination and analysis.

Ten years later, the remains were put in hand-carved coffins from Ghana and brought back to New York City in a six-day procession -- at once lively and solemn -- culminating in a ceremony to honor the way an estimated 15,000 slaves lived, worked and died in New York.

In 2007 the African Burial Ground National Monument opened to the public. Thousands of visitors come to the memorial -- seven raised mounds containing human remains and artifacts -- to pay tribute to our dead. Though New York law prohibited slaves from gathering in groups of 12 or more or holding funerals after sunset, historians believe that the dead were buried with dignity and respect according to African traditions.

Last year the National Park Service opened the $4.4 million African Burial Ground Visitor Center, near where the remains were reinterred -- and it is a must-visit site.

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