10 Thriving Black Towns You Didn’t Learn About in History Class

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Map drawn by Egbert Viele showing the layout of Seneca Village circa 1856
Map drawn by Egbert Viele showing the layout of Seneca Village circa 1856

The Town Destroyed to Make Way for Central Park: Seneca Village, N.Y. — Seneca Village was founded in 1825, when Epiphany Davis and Andrew Williams became the first African-Americans to buy land in the area. Trustees of the AME Zion Church then purchased eight plots of land close by. By 1829, nine homes had been built. The dwellings ranged from one-room houses to three-story houses made of wood and brick. The town also featured three churches and a schoolhouse. According to the Central Park Conservancy, an 1855 census showed 250 residents living in Seneca Village, with 70 homes built.  After a history of just 32 years, the end of the town came when the New York State legislature used eminent domain to seize the occupied land and build what is now Central Park.

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