Greenwich Village has a deep African American history and at one time was home to the largest African American population in New York City. Throughout Black History Month we'll be featuring some of the buildings and places that figure prominently in the African American history of both New York City and the United States.
From the mid-1800’s to late 1910’s Greenwich Village was home to New York City’s largest African-American community which centered around Minetta Lane, Minetta Street and Minetta Place, becoming known as “Little Africa”.
The Village’s African-American roots actually stem back much further, to the 16th century Dutch colonial times, when “partially-free” blacks settled in the area. They were permitted residence on the basis they act as a buffer between the native Americans in upper Manhattan, and new European settlers in lower Manhattan.
Although Minetta was the center of “Little Africa”, the area also included Bleecker Street, LaGuardia Place (then Laurens Street), MacDougal Street, Thompson Street, Sullivan Street, Gay Street and Waverly Place.
The name “Minetta” stems from “Mannette”, the Algonquin Indian word for “Spirit Water”, the brick houses and buildings that today line the Minetta area were built around a brook that flowed into the Hudson River.
For a complete guide to locations connected to African-American history around the village the interactive map created by the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.