Map: Black New York City 1785–1835

Map: Black New York City 1785–1835

This map was created in 1827, the same year that slaves in New York State were emancipated. The city was growing quickly, and the city's population was expanding and changing. Delineations of class, race, and citizenship were in continual flux.

The icons on this map represent the locations of important institutions in the lives of African American New Yorkers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At this time, the African American community in the city was concentrated in Lower Manhattan. All six African Free Schools are shown on this map.

Click on the icons to read more about the churches, newspapers, theaters, and mutual-aid societies created by black New Yorkers.

AFS Schools

Location: First AFS School

First AFS School

65 Cliff Street (near Beekman Street)

Although the African Free School opened in 1788, it was not until 1796 that a school building was purchased explicitly for that purpose. The Cliff Street school remained in service until December 1813, when it was destroyed by fire.

Location: AFS School No. 1

AFS School No. 1

245 Williams Street (near Duane Street)

The school on Williams Street opened in 1815 and remained in use until 1833, when it was absorbed into the New York Public School system. At its peak, five hundred students were enrolled at African Free School No. 1.

Location: AFS School No. 2 and 4Image: AFS School No. 2 and 4

AFS School No. 2 and 4

135 Mulberry Street (between Hester and Walker streets)

African Free School No. 2, also known as the Mulberry Street School, was alma mater to many of New York City's most prominent African American leaders, include James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet. It opened in 1820. (In May 1832 the female department of AFS No. 2 was reorganized as AFS No. 4, which remained at the Mulberry Street location.)

"New-York African Free-School, No. 2. Engraved from a drawing taken by P. Reason, a pupil, aged 13 years." Frontispiece to The History of the New-York African Free-Schools by Charles C. Andrews.

Columbia University Libraries

Location: AFS School No. 3

AFS School No. 3

120 Amity Street (near Sixth Avenue)

African Free School No. 3 first opened in 1831 on Nineteenth Street, near Sixth Avenue, under the direction of Benjamin F. Hughes. After objections from whites in the area, it was relocated to its Amity Street location.

Location: AFS School No. 5

AFS School No. 5

161 Duane Street

AFS School No. 5 opened in the summer of 1832 under the direction of African American teacher Jane A. Parker.

Location: AFS School No. 6

AFS School No. 6

108 Columbia Street

AFS School No. 6 opened in the summer of 1832 under the direction of African American teacher John Peterson. In 1834, when the African Free Schools were absorbed into the New York Public School system, Mr. Peterson became a teacher and principle at New York Public School No. 1, part of the NYPS's segregated school system for African Americans.


Location: African Methodist Episcopal Zion ("Mother Zion")

African Methodist Episcopal Zion ("Mother Zion")

Leonard and Church streets

The Reverend Peter Williams Sr. formed the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in 1796, and in 1801 built the AMEZ church at Church and Leonard streets. Since its earliest years it has been commonly known as "Mother Zion."

Location: Abyssinian Baptist Church

Abyssinian Baptist Church

Anthony Street [now Worth Street] (west of Broadway)

The Abyssinian Baptist Church was established in 1807 with the assistance of Thomas Paul, who had founded Boston's African Baptist Church.

Location: St. Philip's Episcopal ChurchImage: St. Philip's Episcopal Church

St. Philip's Episcopal Church

Collect Street (between Anthony and Leonard streets)

St. Philip's Episcopal Church separated from New York's Trinity Episcopal Church and formed a separate congregation in 1819, under the leadership of Peter Williams Jr., a graduate of the African Free School.

St. Philip's Church. Engraving by John F. E. Prud'homme after William Bayley, artist (nineteenth century).

New-York Historical Society Library

Location: First Colored Presbyterian Church

First Colored Presbyterian Church

Frankfort Street (corner of William Street)

Samuel Cornish organized New York's First Colored Presbyterian Church in 1821 and left to serve as founding editor for the Freedom's Journal in 1827. He was succeeded Theodore S. Wright, who had studied at the African Free School and had then been admitted into Princeton Theological Seminary. Rev. Wright established the church on Frankfort Street after the original building had been lost due to debt.

Cultural Institutions

Location: African Grove Theater

African Grove Theater

Mercer Street

In 1822 the African Grove Theater opened their Mercer Street theater. Ira Aldridge, an alumnus of the African Free School, may have begun his career there.

Location: African Society for Mutual Relief

African Society for Mutual Relief

Orange and Franklin streets

John Teasman, the former head of the African Free School, with others associated with the school, established the African Society for Mutual Relief in 1808.

Location: Union Hall

Union Hall

101 Anthony Street

Union Hall was a popular meeting place for African American and abolitionist organizations, located in the basement of the Broadway Tabernacle.

Location: American Anti-Slavery Society

American Anti-Slavery Society

143 Nassau Street

Formed in 1833 and based in New York City, the American Anti-Slavery Society supported William Lloyd Garrison's call for immediate abolition. It was led by prominent New York merchants and reformers Arthur and Lewis Tappan.

Location: The Colored American

The Colored American

2 Frankfort Street

This address housed the office of the Colored American, established in 1837 by Samuel Cornish and Philip Bell. Cornish resigned from the weekly newspaper in 1839 and was replaced by the Reverend Charles Bennet Ray.

Location: Bookshop of David Ruggles

Bookshop of David Ruggles

67 Lispenard Street

This location held the bookshop and circulating library of black merchant and activist David Ruggles, which opened in 1834 and specialized in abolitionist literature. The bookshop was destroyed by an anti-abolitionist mob in 1835.

Location: Philomathean Hall

Philomathean Hall

161 Duane Street

This was the location of the Philomathean Literary Society, established in 1826 as a social and literary club for young African American men. Speakers and officers included many African Free School alumni.

Location: Freedom's Journal

Freedom's Journal

150 Church Street

This was the office of the Freedom's Journal, a weekly newspaper begun in 1827 by John Russwurm and Samuel E. Cornish. The two editors disagreed over the movement to colonize free blacks in Africa and the newspaper closed in 1829. Russwurm emigrated to Liberia, and later served as governor of Maryland in Liberia.

NYC Landmarks

Location: Five PointsImage: Five Points

Five Points

Junction of Mulberry, Orange, Anthony, Cross, and Little Water streets

By the 1830s, Five Points, an interracial neighborhood in the heart of New York's sixth ward, had gained notoriety as a dangerous, unhealthy, and crime-ridden slum.

The Old Brewery. Lithograph of Five Points, New York (nineteenth century).

New-York Historical Society

Location: Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park

Area bordered by Waverly Place and MacDougal, Fourth, and Wooster streets

The area that became Washington Square Park was used as a public burial ground and public hanging site from 1797 to 1826. It was designated a public park in 1827.

Location: City HallImage: City Hall

City Hall

Near intersection of Broadway and Chatham Street

City Hall was moved from Wall Street to a new building at Broadway and Park Row in 1812.

Design for New York's City Hall by Joseph Francois Mangin and John McComb Jr. (1802).

New-York Historical Society

Location: Fulton Market

Fulton Market

South Street between Beekman and Fulton streets

The Fulton Market sold a variety of foods when it opened in 1822.

Location: Wall StreetImage: Wall Street

Wall Street

Wall Street

Federal Hall at Wall and Nassau streets was the site of George Washington's inauguration in 1789. In 1817, the newly organized New York Stock and Exchange Board set up operations at 40 Wall Street.

Northeast Corner of Wall and William Streets, New York City, illustrated in ink, watercolor washes, and graphite on paper by Archibald Robertson (1798).

New-York Historical Society

Location: African Burial Ground

African Burial Ground

Area roughly bordered by Duane Street, Broadway, City Hall Park, and Centre Street

This burial ground, used by free and enslaved Africans and African Americans, was established in the late seventeenth century on a site encompassing over 5 acres. It was closed by the city in 1794.

Location: Trinity ChurchImage: Trinity Church

Trinity Church

Broadway at Wall Street

Manumission Society members John Jay and Alexander Hamilton also belonged to Trinity Church. The society obtained land for the first African Free School from the church.

Trinity Church and Wall Street appear in the image Federal Hall, NYC, illustrated in graphite, watercolor, pen, and ink on paper by Archibald Robertson (1798).

New-York Historical Society