Places that Matter

Weeksville Heritage Center

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Village view, Martha Cooper
Village view, Martha Cooper
A house, Martha Cooper
Houses belonging to 19th century free-black community
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Place Matters Profile

In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, right across the street from the Kingsborough Projects, stand four small wood-frame houses that are the last traces of Weeksville, a nineteenth-century African-American community. The community was named after James Weeks, an African-American from Virginia who bought the plot of land in 1838. Although he had no education, he played a key role in developing this thriving settlement of free blacks, whose community building and social and cultural achievements have been rediscovered by the Weeksville Heritage Center and are commemorated here.

In 1968, the dilapidated little group had been scheduled for demolition, to make way for more housing projects. Just in time, a historian/engineer team on the trail of local black history flew over the area and spotted the four houses on an oddly situated curving lane that bore no relation to the modern grid system. The lane turned out to be a remnant of an even older colonial path called Hunterfly Road, which formed the eastern boundary of Weeksville. This astonishing aerial sighting was an important step in a longer, larger community process of uncovering a history that the history books had ignored. The Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford-Stuyvesant History (now the Weeksville Heritage Center) became the vehicle.