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


New updated edition coming out in 2024, from Seven Stories Press:

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


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.


“Bill Katz has done for New York what he did for the American West. We hail him for his accomplishments yesterday and today. I salute him and Black Legacy.” —John Hope Franklin

“An outstanding offering. Notable African Americans in every field are cited in this well-written, profusely illustrated book.”–Starred Review School Library Journal

“One of the layers we’ll have to include [in] a true history of the United States as the genuinely multicultural nation it has always been is this wonderful book. Impressive research, new information in every section . . . and engaging.” –Rosemary L. Bray, New York Sunday Times

“Katz focuses in on just one segment of black history, New York’s African American community, but the depth of the work is impressive. Encompasses the story of all American blacks, as well as their culture and leadership.”  Booklist, Boxed Review

 “This is an exhaustive history of African Americans in New York. . . . Katz’s prose is gracefully accessible and devoid of self-conscious frills.”The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Like all Prof. Katz’s books Black Legacy is richly edited with photographs and easily readable . . . a must for every serious library.”The Black World Today (Web-Site)

“Brings little-known facts to an audience that deserves to better learn the reality of its past . . . [and] much information new to most readers. A fascinating account for the reader to pursue [and] includes many archival photographs. There are few books intended for young people that take this detailed a look at history.”Voice of Youth Advocates