Black Legacy: A History of New York’s African Americans

Black Legacy book cover“Bill Katz is one of the few members outside of our community who has made a significant, lasting contribution to it. Black Legacy is a good, clear layman’s book on African Americans in New York.”
— Prof. John Henrik Clarke

Long before New York became the first charted city in the New World in 1653, Africans, explorers, slaves and freedom fighters were a vital part of its life. Enslaved Africans gained freedom and land under the Dutch, others during British rule and some by fighting in the American Revolution. In 1827, New York State law finally ended bondage.

By then Black poets, journalists and entrepreneurs had widened the city’s horizons and Black children were attending its first public schools. Before the Civil War New Yorkers Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass were among those agitators who led the fight against slavery and racism throughout the United States.

By the early 20th century New York had attracted Black intellectuals, theatrical and sports celebrities, and several distinct Black neighborhoods had formed. In the 1920s Harlem became a mecca for people of African descent and gave birth to a creative “Harlem Renaissance” that shaped modern American culture. With Harlem and New York as a base, Black crusades for pride, equal rights and justice were launched by the NAACP, the Urban League, Marcus Garvey, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.

This book traces New York City’s Black legacy from Dutch Governor Peter Minuit to Mayor David Dinkins and reveals how people of color built today’s New York while they fought to end slavery and discrimination.

William Loren Katz is the author of 35 books, including dozens on African Americans, and editor of another 212 history volumes. In this one, he draws on decades of committed research and a rare antique print collection he began forty years ago.