The city of New York is commemorating the state’s first free Black community after members of that community were pushed out of their neighborhood to build what is now Central Park.
Seneca Village began in 1825, when Black downtown residents started to buy property in the West 80s neighborhood, according to the Central Park Conservatory, which is installing the monument.
“Researchers believe this new community provided refuge from crowded conditions and discrimination that was prevalent in New York City,” Conservatory officials said on its website.
By 1855, Seneca Village had approximately 225 residents, made up of mostly Black homeowners and a small number of Irish and German immigrants, the Conservatory said.
The monument will showcase pioneers Albro Lyons, Mary Lyons and their daughter Maritcha Lyons, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced Tuesday in a news release.
“Along with the planned Women’s Suffrage monument, it will be the first commemorative sculpture placed within Central Park’s borders since the 1950s,” officials said in the news release.
Albro Lyons turned a family residence into a refuge for escaped slaves called a Colored Sailors Home, according to the Black Gotham Archive, a project by Carla L. Peterson.
Maritcha Lyons, a schoolteacher, built-in 1892 one of the first women’s rights and racial justice organizations in the United States, the Woman’s Loyal Union of New York and Brooklyn, according to an essay written by Val Marie Johnson in the Journal of Urban History.