Weeksville, Brooklyn (History)

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(Neighborhoods In Brooklyn)

Weeksville is a neighborhood founded by African American freedmen in what is now Brooklyn, New York, United States, part of the present-day neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Weeksville was named after James Weeks, an African-American stevedore from Virginia, who in 1838 bought a plot of land from Henry C. Thompson (another free African-American) in the Ninth Ward of central Brooklyn (just 11 years after the abolition of slavery in New York State). The village itself was established by a group of African American land investors and political activists, and covered an area bounded by present-day Fulton Street, East New York Avenue, Ralph Avenue and Troy Avenue. A 1906 article in the New York Age recalling the earlier period noted that James Weeks “owned a handsome dwelling at Schenectady and Atlantic Avenues.”

By the 1850s, Weeksville had more than 500 residents from all over the East Coast (as well as two people born in Africa). Almost 40 percent of residents were southern-born, and nearly one-third of the men over 21 owned land. The village had its own churches (including Bethel Tabernacle African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Berean Missionary Baptist Church), a school (“Colored School no. 2”, now P.S. 243), a cemetery, and an old age home. Weeksville had one of the first African-American newspapers, the Freedman’s Torchlight, and in the 1860s became the national headquarters of the African Civilization Society and the Howard Orphan Asylum. During the violent New York Draft Riots of 1863, the community served as a refuge for many African-Americans who fled from Manhattan.

After the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge and as New York City grew and expanded, Weeksville gradually became part of Bedford-Stuyvesant, and memory of the village was largely forgotten.

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