Participants will be able to examine the current Weeksville Heritage Center site and discuss the site’s current impact on the local community, as well as identify how the current mission of the organization is continuing the legacy of Weeksville’s founding.
Intended for all ages
By 1840, merely two years after James Weeks purchased his two lots, Weeksville, much like most of Brooklyn, was growing!
Brooklyn in 1840 was a bustling city with active docks and ferries, rivaling New York City (just Manhattan at this point) in population and economic growth. Weeksville was a community of 27 families—notably, 3 of the families were of European descent. The blossoming community prioritized not only owning land for Black men in the community to be able to vote, but also prioritized education.
Weeksville’s community opened Colored School No.2 in 1840, following the success in the launch of the African Free School (located in what is now the Fort Greene neighborhood) in 1827. Weeksville’s school would attract Junius C. Morel, an abolitionist and writer for Frederick Douglass’ The North Star. Morel would join the community in 1847 and move into the role of principal of Colored School No. 2.
Let’s explore the five w’s of Weeksville: who, what, when, where, why
As historian and CUNY professor, Prithi Kanakamedala remarked, “Weeksville is an intentional free Black community that is self-determined. It intentionally has its own schools, newspapers, churches, and businesses.” In this lesson, we’ll learn how Weeksville expanded as a community and provided space for its residents to grow and flourish.
Using the handout, head over to Weeksville Heritage Center (check the website for current open times and days) or, if you are not able to visit in person, visit their website. We highly recommend reviewing the Weeksville Heritage Center pre-visit booklet as it is chock full of primary source information and things to know before you visit the space in-person or virtually.
It is incredibly important to visit Weeksville and attend one of their house tours. Each house has its own story and you should bring your handout (or pick one up onsite!) to make notes of what you learn from the tour. Once you finish the tour, join us for the next portion online.
If you are unable to attend an in-person tour of the Hunterfly houses, the next best thing is this incredible video from Vice TV of Messiah Rhodes’ experience exploring the Weeksville Heritage Center.
2. Learn more on the website
Following whichever journey you take, follow up on your visit to explore the Weeksville website to learn more about how the Center came to be and why this area needs to be preserved. While perusing, look for the following:
3. Map our history
Before you wrap up with this lesson, take a moment to return to your map and see if you can draw where the Weeksville Heritage Center is located. What do you notice about the community’s size versus the heritage center’s land? What is missing?
If interested in diving deeper into the origins of Weeksville and Brooklyn, consider exploring the following questions:
“Collections & Research.” n.d. Weeksville. Accessed April 27, 2023. https://www.weeksvillesociety.org/learn/collections-research/.
“Black to School: The History of Colored School No.1.” 2020. Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership. September 24, 2020. https://myrtleavenue.org/colored-school-no-1-by-carl-hancock-rux/.
Walker, G.E. 1993. The Afro-American in New York City, 1827-1860. Routledge.
“The History of Weeksville: When Crown Heights Had the Second-Largest Free Black Community in the U.S.” n.d. 6sqft.
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Mapping Communities: Black Enclaves in New York City from 1825 to 1950 is an interactive exploration of these two historic Black communities’ significant contributions to developing New York City’s cultural richness using narrative, timeline, videos, and curriculum. This project was made with love by Museum Hue, Allen Hillery and the DuBois Challenge, Syeda Tabassum, and Liam Elkins.
Museum Hue is the leading organization dedicated to advancing Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color in the cultural field. We have over 400 institutional members, representing cultural and academic institutions across the United States.
Rev. Audrey Williamson of AME Zion Church
Ola Baldych, Director of Design and Exhibits of Poster House
The funding for this project was made possible by Humanities NY and the Ford Foundation.
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