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The City Concealed: Weeksville (video from Thirteen.org) AND The Inspiring Story of Weeksville (images and article from Brownstoner.com)

Author: Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris)

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The City Concealed: Weeksville from Thirteen.org on Vimeo.


The Hunterfly Road Houses of Weeksville are the discovered remains of a free African-American community from the 1800s.

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Jun 8
nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:22PM) : where there more black communities after this
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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:18PM) : Weeksville more

Weeksville was a historic community that was established back in the 1830’s

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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:19PM) : Weeksvile more

Weeksville was also named after a man named james weeks

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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:21PM) : Weeksville land owners more

Weeksville was a large population of property owners and has its own lifestyle such as its own newspaper company

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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:22PM) : Weeksville more

Weeksville was populated of 500 people in 1850’s

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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:23PM) : Weekville location more

Weeksville was located between troy ave to ralph and fulton st.

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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:24PM) : Weeksville more

Only way to get from manhattan to brooklyn during that time was by ferry boats.

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Jun 10
Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:26PM) : Life in weeksville more

Weeksville was active in politics, social, and cultural activity that was progressing continuously.

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Jun 11
Steven White (Jun 11 2018 2:42PM) : Community Tags: Weeksville/Steven
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Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:31PM) : Weeksville more

Weeksville was hardly known in the 1960’s, however a man did a survey on the people and their activities and its participants.

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Steven White (Jun 11 2018 2:41PM) : Community Tags: Weeksville/Steven
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Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:34PM) : Weeksville more

The property of weeksville was purchased for james weeks and its purpose was to build a community.

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Steven White (Jun 11 2018 2:41PM) : Community Tags: Weeksville/Steven
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Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:41PM) : Weeksville more

Weeksville’s community had troubles growing due to the geographic features. In other words there were no bridges, subways, or cars to travel to weeksville. The only way to get there was the ferry boat. Weeksville was also unknown on maps but came visible from a black man that was a pilot who flew over weeksville which pushed people to put weeksville on maps.

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Steven White (Jun 11 2018 2:41PM) : community Tags: Weeksville/Steven
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Steven White (Jun 10 2018 2:55PM) : Weeksville more

Weeksville started as a low populated and unknown area to many people who lived in brooklyn or any of the major boroughs. Weeksville’s growth came from its population growth and mix of ethnicities and its unique lifestyle. It also became a factor because decades later, bridges connecting the boroughs which people can travel across by additional vehicles. Their active Interests in social, political, and cultural also became a factor in their growth and a persistent usher from black people to get Weeksville to be put on the city map was also another reason why Weeksville became so popular today and why it is one of the many important and respected communities present.

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Steven White (Jun 11 2018 2:41PM) : Community Tags: Weeksville/Steven
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Steven White (Jun 11 2018 2:43PM) : C Tags: Weeksville/Steven
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May 23
dcarter dwayne carter (May 23 2018 3:07PM) : Was Weeksville ever an Poverty Neighborhood?
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May 30
Dr Fendi Brim (May 30 2018 2:56PM) : Was Weeksville The Only Black Community Like This ?
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May 30
Dr Fendi Brim (May 30 2018 2:54PM) : Did They Try To Start Another Community Like Weeksville In Brooklyn Or Even In Different Countries ? [Edited]
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May 31
Don Hierro (May 31 2018 2:51PM) : why weeksville community look different now?
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Jun 4
Steven White (Jun 04 2018 2:34PM) : black community. more

people made changes to the community

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May 22
Pamela McLean (May 22 2018 2:58PM) : Why cant more people in now in our community take this initiative?
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May 23
Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:58PM) : Is it because many people are close-minded and they may also believe there will be no change?
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May 23
Tara Page (May 23 2018 2:46PM) : This is how many immigrants feel under the Trump administration.
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May 30
Dr Fendi Brim (May 30 2018 2:57PM) : Did The Immigrants Call You & Say Thats How They Feel ?
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May 31
Don Hierro (May 31 2018 3:03PM) : what happened to kid who was born in weeksville community
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Jun 8
foday gassama (Jun 08 2018 2:20PM) : What kid?
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May 25
Jazmine Jones (May 25 2018 2:53PM) : Is there still a human community in Weeksville with people who work together? [Edited] Tags: weeksville's comments and questions
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The Inspiring Story of Weeksville, One of America’s First Free Black Communities

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May 8
Joshua Romero Acosta (May 08 2018 2:56PM) : People were banned from going to church, also they were offered menial of jobs
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Jun 8
nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:23PM) : why were people banned from going to church?@joshua
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by Suzanne Spellen (aka Montrose Morris)

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May 30
tavia adamson (May 30 2018 2:43PM) : you will basically feel like a person that doesn't exist... But were everybody really banned from certain places? [Edited]
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nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:34PM) : i agree with tavia

Hunterfly Road houses with St. Mary’s Hospital in background, 1920s. Photo via Brooklyn Historical Society

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Imagine being told your entire life that you were not really a citizen of your town or country. Imagine being treated as an inferior, offered only the most menial of jobs, and told to be happy with your lot in life. Imagine being banned from churches, stores and theaters, even cemeteries, because they did not serve “your kind.”

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:47PM) : Didn't they do that to the Native Americans?
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foday gassama (Jun 08 2018 2:20PM) : Do what?
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nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:34PM) : yes shantell mcknight
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Now imagine finding a town where you were accepted — a town where you were able to build your own home, worship in your own church, buy from stores owned by people like you, and raise and educate your children in a place where they would be welcome. A town where you could reach old age and pass on in dignity and equality.

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May 31
Jazmine Jones (May 31 2018 2:51PM) : This would be a great way for people to remember your name and what you did and how you help your community. [Edited] Tags: weeksville's comments and questions
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nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:35PM) : i feel the sameway

For Brooklyn’s African-American population in the 19th century, some of whom were recently freed from slavery, this remarkable town was called Weeksville. And it survives today in bits and pieces, some of which now comprise a historic center in present-day Crown Heights. Here is its story.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Joshua Romero Acosta (May 10 2018 2:39PM) : During the Revolutionary War,most of the people in Central Brooklyn belonged to the Bedford branch. Why would this happen?
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Jazmine Jones (May 29 2018 3:10PM) : Why did the Bedford branch have total control over the Central Brooklyn? [Edited] Tags: weeksville's comments and questions
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foday gassama (Jun 08 2018 2:23PM) : Was there any other communities like weeksville at the time or later brought about?

Hunterfly Road houses with St. Mary’s Hospital in background, 1920s. Photo via Brooklyn Historical Society

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Slavery, Abolition and the Founding of Weeksville

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By the time the Revolutionary War began, most of Central Brooklyn belonged to the Bedford branch of the Lefferts family, who were among the largest landowners — and slaveholders — in Kings County.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:47PM) : Was it only in Newyork?
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The Lefferts’ vast estate was farmed with the help of tenant farmers and, of course, slaves.

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After much effort by abolitionists black and white, slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827. By the 1830s, the newly formed City of Brooklyn began laying out a comprehensive street grid, mapping areas that would long remain farmland.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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1888 map showing Hunterfly Road houses. Photo via New York Public Library

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Around the same time, John Lefferts began selling off parcels of his estate, starting with the 8th Ward, as far eastward as one could go and still be in Brooklyn. (Brownsville and East New York were then a part of Flatbush — still an independent town within Kings County.)

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Henry C. Thompson, a leader in the African-American abolitionist movement, purchased 32 lots from the Lefferts holdings. He sold those lots to other African Americans, including two bought by longshoreman James Weeks, who built himself a house and started a community that would bear his name — Weeksville.

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May 23
Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:48PM) : I thought black people could't buy land?
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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Black-owned businesses in Weeksville. Photo via Weeksville Heritage Center

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The Growth and Decline of Weeksville

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By the 1850s, Weeksville had become a successful community of more than 500 people, boasting more opportunity for homeownership, employment and success for its black residents than any other part of Brooklyn, and well beyond. It was a safe haven during the Draft Riots of 1863.

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Tara Page (May 23 2018 2:52PM) : Where does this exist today?
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nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:49PM) : up the block
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The town’s borders were approximately East New York, Ralph, Troy and Atlantic avenues. James Weeks’ home was located near Schenectady Avenue and Dean Street.

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Weeksville had its own churches, schools and businesses. It supported the Zion Home for Colored Aged and the Howard Colored Orphan Asylum. It had its own cemetery and its own newspaper called The Freedman’s Torchlight.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:49PM) : Are they still here til this day?
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Tara Page (May 23 2018 3:01PM) : Are there archives for this paper (The Freedman's Torchlight)

Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Dr. Susan Smith McKinney-Steward. Photo via Wikipedia

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Weeksville was home to many of Brooklyn’s black abolitionist leaders. Dr. Susan Smith McKinney, the state’s first African-American female doctor, was born here, and the town was home to New York City’s first African-American police officer.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:49PM) : Is she still alive?
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Tara Page (May 23 2018 3:05PM) : Did you read more about Dr Susan Smith McKinney? She is pretty amazing.
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By the 1880s, development began to catch up to Weeksville. The street grid was expanded east, often running through homes and farm stands. Weeksville’s cemetery was destroyed for Eastern Parkway.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:50PM) : Other communities wasn't at their pace?
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Weeksville Brooklyn History

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1880s tintype found in a Weeksville home. Photo via Weeksville Heritage Center

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Wood-framed houses were replaced by masonry row houses. The city of Brooklyn grew up, around and through the town. Weeksville slowly disappeared, as its residents adjusted or left.

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By the 1930s, Weeksville had been almost totally absorbed by Brooklyn, and by the ’70s it was just another part of the huge neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant. Though Weeksville is now within Crown Heights’ borders, until the ’80s it was considered to be Bed Stuy.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:51PM) : What do they mean "absorbed by Brooklyn" ?
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But some people still remembered the small town.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:53PM) : How come it isn't taught to many people, and only "some" people remember?
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Jazmine Jones (May 31 2018 3:03PM) : Will people still create and remake and build in the town? [Edited] Tags: weeksville's comments and questions
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nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:47PM) : why isn't it taught to kids in the community
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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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May 30
Jazmine Jones (May 30 2018 3:02PM) : Do they still maintain weeksville meaning do they help the community and build new houses in today's time? [Edited] Tags: weeksville's comments and questions

Weeksville houses today. Photo by Suzanne Spellen

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Weeksville’s Rediscovery and Rebirth

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In 1968, historian James Hurley and local resident and pilot Joseph Haynes were doing a research project at Pratt, where they found references to Weeksville in 19th-century histories of Brooklyn.

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They took to the air and saw what was left of Hunterfly Road, one of Weeksville’s streets, and the row of four forgotten houses on it, nestled amid the much larger neighborhood. It was like finding buried treasure.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:53PM) : Did they find all of it and rebuild it?
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But time was of the essence, as the city was preparing to tear down the entire area for new housing.

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Shantell McKnight (May 23 2018 2:54PM) : But why not keep the original?
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nasay soto (Jun 08 2018 2:37PM) : it probably was broke down
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Their preservation efforts led to the Weeksville Project, and with the unflagging support of the community, archeologists and historians, the houses were saved and began the slow process of preservation and protection.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History

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May 31
Jazmine Jones (May 31 2018 3:09PM) : What was the process that they had to go to, to increase houses in Weeksville? [Edited] Tags: weeksville's comments and questions
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A 1970s archeological dig at the Hunterfly Road Site, in Weeksville. Photo via Weeksville Heritage Center

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The Weeksville Project evolved into the Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford Stuyvesant History; its first president was Joan Maynard, who was already legend in the Bed Stuy community.

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Maynard made the Weeksville houses her mission and secured city, state and national landmarking. She also was a tireless fundraiser for the site, and the Society purchased the houses in 1973.

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By 2005, the site was renamed the Weeksville Heritage Center. The houses had suffered vandalism in the ’80s, and three were renovated to depict specific time periods. One house was remodeled as offices and a small exhibit space.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Photo: Cate Corcoran

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A Modern New Building for the Weeksville Heritage Center

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It was soon apparent that the Center needed a much larger building to expand its mission, which finally happened in 2014 after a huge fundraising campaign and years of financial delays.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Photo by Cate Corcoran

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Caples Jefferson Architects designed a starkly modern L-shaped visitor’s center that hugs the outer edge of the property; in the center is a large meadow garden designed by Elizabeth Kennedy.

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The mixture of old and new, modern and early-19th century, works. Caples Jefferson’s award-winning design includes subtle decorative elements evoking African design motifs, deftly referencing the distant past but not beating you over the head with it.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Photo by Cate Corcoran

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Visiting the center is like stepping into the country in the middle of a city.

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One can imagine the area’s agrarian past, when Weeksville’s residents raised chickens and grew vegetables on their land. It’s still happening today.

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The Center maintains a market garden, run by local teens and volunteers. The produce, eggs and honey are sold at the center’s market, just as they were 160 years ago.

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Photo by Cate Corcoran

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Weeksville Brooklyn History Heritage Center

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Photo by Cate Corcoran

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In 2016, the center provides valuable programs that educate visitors about life for African-American Brooklynites in the 19th century. They also have an impressive collection of artifacts and research materials for scholars.

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Guided tours of the houses are offered on select weekday afternoons. The center also has frequent celebrations of historic and contemporary African-American culture, which may include dance, tours, live music, film screenings, food and face painting.

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The increased funding and the new facilities will enable researchers, archeologists and historians to discover more of the depth and breadth of the town, as well as the rest of Brooklyn’s rich African-American history.

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Weeksville is an important part of American history, and the center should be a must-see for everyone.

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DMU Timestamp: January 17, 2018 14:17

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May 3
Joshua Romero Acosta (May 03 2018 2:54PM) : The Community was found around the mid 1830s by Jame Weeks who was an African American. [Edited]
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May 22
Shantell McKnight (May 22 2018 2:45PM) : The community was also named after James weeks.
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May 23
Tara Page (May 23 2018 2:51PM) : How many African Americans did Thompson sell lots to? And where did he get money from in the first place to buy the lots? How much did they cost back then?
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