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Black History Month in NYC: 15 historic sites to visit

See the historic spaces that shaped black culture and civil rights in New York City

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Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 3, 2017 and has been updated with the most recent information available.

New York City has long been a place of historical significance when it comes to various civil rights and social justice movements, and particularly so when it comes to black history. It's the birthplace of the Harlem Renaissance; it's the birthplace of pioneering politician Shirley Chisholm; and it's where countless black entertainers made their names at the Apollo Theater—and that's barely even scratching the surface.

To celebrate Black History Month, we've compiled a map of 15 sites across the city—ranging from small plaques in city parks to full-on national monuments—that celebrate and honor the immense, ineffable contributions that black Americans and people of African descent have made on the five boroughs. If we've left one of your favorites off the list, let us know in the comments.

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1. Apollo Theater

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253 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027
When it first debuted in 1914, this historic venue was known as Hurtig & Seamon's New Burlesque Theater and African Americans were not allowed to attend or perform in shows. It wasn't until 1934 that the theater would become the historic Apollo Theater, where some of the greatest musicians (James Brown, Diana Ross, Billie Holiday, and too many more to count) would grace the stage. Even today, the landmarked theater continues to host concerts, performing arts, and the signature Amateur Night.

A photo posted by Julia (@julia_v) on

2. Louis Armstrong House Museum

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34-56 107th St
Corona, NY 11368
(718) 478-8274
Visit Website
In 1943, famed trumpeter Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille settled into a modest house on 10th Street in Corona, Queens, and lived there until their deaths. Having been carefully preserved and declared a national historic landmark, the house is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum, celebrating the iconic jazz musician's legacy. Now, it's open to the public with guided tours led each week from Tuesday through Sunday.

3. Langston Hughes House

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20 E 127th St
New York, NY 10035
Author and social activist Langston Hughes is regarded as one of America's greatest poets, and was one of the most important leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. For nearly 20 years, Hughes called the landmarked Harlem townhouse at 20 East 127th Street home. After a tumultuous series of events, a Harlem writer is working towards honoring Hughes' legacy by turning the house into a space for the neighborhood's emerging and established artists.

4. African Burial Ground National Monument

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290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007
(212) 637-2019
Visit Website
In 1991, construction workers stumbled upon the graves of 424 African Americans while getting ready to lay the foundation for a new federal building. As it turned out, the site was once a swamp-like area where people of African descent—often enslaved—were buried in what were referred to as "Negroe Burial Grounds." The site has since been named a National Monument, and a visitor center opened in 2010.

5. Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture

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This Harlem cultural institution focuses explicitly on the history and culture of people of African descent. The Schomburg Center is part of the New York Public Library system and was named after Afro-Puerto Rican scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. In January 2017, it was officially declared a National Historic Landmark.

6. Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational And Cultural Center

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3940 Broadway
New York, NY 10032
Long before the building at 3940 Broadway in Washington Heights became a memorial to civil rights activists Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, it functioned as a theater and dance hall known as the Audubon Ballroom. After leaving the Nation of Islam and founding the Organization of Afro-American Unity, Malcolm X held weekly meetings at the Audubon. It was here, too, that the civil rights leader was assassinated while giving a speech in 1965. Today, the building is an educational and cultural center that focuses on the advancement of human rights and social justice.

7. Studio Museum in Harlem

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144 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027
(212) 864-4500
Visit Website
The country's first museum dedicated to contemporary African American artists was none other than Harlem's own Studio Museum. It was founded by a collective of local artists and activists who wanted to provide a one-of-a-kind way to support emerging artists of color, along with promoting arts education. The original museum was located within a Fifth Avenue loft, but its organizers were gifted the building at 144 West 125th Street by the New York Bank for Savings. Now, the institution offers programs for seniors and children along with Target Free Sundays.

8. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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405 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 405-9000
Visit Website
Though it's moved several times since its founding in 1969, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center has been a New York City staple for more than nearly 50 years. Originally the company was comprised of all black performers but was later converted into a multi-racial group. Credited with revolutionizing modern dance, the Ailey School moved into its permanent location at West 55th Street after spending more than 20 years at their first Manhattan location on Broadway.

A photo posted by Nicole Gallo (@nikki_g_7) on

9. Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

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140-7 West 137th Stre
New York, NY 10030
(212) 234-1544
Casually known as "Mother Zion," this Harlem church was founded in 1796 and was New York City's first African American church. During the 1930s, the church attracted the likes of elite black scholars, entertainers, and civil rights activists. Joe Louis, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and Madame C.J. Walker are just a handful of the many notable figures who attended sermons at Mother Zion.

10. Weeksville Heritage Center

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1698 Bergen St
Brooklyn, NY 11213
Founded in the 1840s, Weeksville, Brooklyn was one of the country's first communities of free African Americans. Many had fled from Manhattan during the draft riots of 1863 to escape lynching. Just three of the community's houses remaining standing but the area has been preserved by way of the Weeksville Heritage Center, a museum the depicts what life was like for this pre-Civil War community. In 2013, a modern building designed by Caples Jefferson Architects opened as a museum and visitors' center.

11. Shirley Chisholm Circle

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900 Prospect PL
Brooklyn, NY 11213
Brooklynite Shirley Chisholm was a pioneer in many ways: She was the first black women elected to Congress (representing New York's 12th district for more than a decade), and in 1972, she became the first African American to run for president. To celebrate her enduring legacy, in 2016, the NYC Department of Parks, along with several local officials dedicated a new public space" to Chisholm within Bed-Stuy's Brower Park. Shirley Chisholm Circle is a lovely paved terrace with a commemorative plaque to remind generations to come of her tireless activism and fight for equal rights.

12. Addisleigh Park Historic District

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110-40 177th St
Jamaica, NY 11433
In the early 20th century, more than 400 houses were built in Queens's St. Albans neighborhood. The area was dubbed Addisleigh Park and the newly built homes were supposed to be exclusively for white buyers. However, many notable African Americans, including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, and Count Basie, would not be deterred—by defying the discriminatory rules, wealthy blacks forced the neighborhood to integrate. Many of its breathtaking homes remain in pristine condition, and luckily, they will stay that way: In 2011, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the neighborhood's designation as a historic district.

13. Black Spectrum Theatre

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177th St & Baisley Blvd
Jamaica, NY 11434
The Black Spectrum Theatre was introduced to the world as a small traveling theater company made up of performers from Afro, Caribbean, and Latino descent before opening a professional theater within Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, Queens. It has since grown and is now is a 325-seat venue that aims to bring theater, film, and performing arts to southeastern Queens by showcasing the work of emerging African American directors, performers, and playwrights.

14. Ebbets Field

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1700 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11225
(866) 553-2469
Back when Brooklyn had its own baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field was their home turf. It was a small stadium by today's standards, with only a 35,000 seat capacity—hardly enough to accommodate the many fans who lined up to see the 1955 World Series-winning Dodgers. But something of much larger cultural significance took place at the erstwhile stadium. Ebbets Field is where Jackie Robinson broke the color line when he was signed by the Dodgers, becoming the first black player to play in the major league. Sadly, the stadium was demolished in 1967 and a complex named the Ebbets Field Apartments now sits in its place.

15. Minton's

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206 W 118th St
New York, NY 10026
(212) 243-2222
Visit Website
Though it's now one of the city's best brunch spots, Minton's in Harlem once was a vibrant jazz club and the birthplace of bebop. Minton's Playhouse, as it was known, was founded by the first black delegate of the American Federation of Musicians, Henry Minton. Virtually every legendary jazz player—Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, you get the idea—played there at some point in its heyday. Even as a restaurant, Minton's has preserved its legacy as the birthplace of the jazz boom and features a menu inspired by African American culture.

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1. Apollo Theater

253 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
When it first debuted in 1914, this historic venue was known as Hurtig & Seamon's New Burlesque Theater and African Americans were not allowed to attend or perform in shows. It wasn't until 1934 that the theater would become the historic Apollo Theater, where some of the greatest musicians (James Brown, Diana Ross, Billie Holiday, and too many more to count) would grace the stage. Even today, the landmarked theater continues to host concerts, performing arts, and the signature Amateur Night.

A photo posted by Julia (@julia_v) on

253 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027

2. Louis Armstrong House Museum

34-56 107th St, Corona, NY 11368
In 1943, famed trumpeter Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille settled into a modest house on 10th Street in Corona, Queens, and lived there until their deaths. Having been carefully preserved and declared a national historic landmark, the house is now the Louis Armstrong House Museum, celebrating the iconic jazz musician's legacy. Now, it's open to the public with guided tours led each week from Tuesday through Sunday.
34-56 107th St
Corona, NY 11368

3. Langston Hughes House

20 E 127th St, New York, NY 10035
Author and social activist Langston Hughes is regarded as one of America's greatest poets, and was one of the most important leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. For nearly 20 years, Hughes called the landmarked Harlem townhouse at 20 East 127th Street home. After a tumultuous series of events, a Harlem writer is working towards honoring Hughes' legacy by turning the house into a space for the neighborhood's emerging and established artists.
20 E 127th St
New York, NY 10035

4. African Burial Ground National Monument

290 Broadway, New York, NY 10007
In 1991, construction workers stumbled upon the graves of 424 African Americans while getting ready to lay the foundation for a new federal building. As it turned out, the site was once a swamp-like area where people of African descent—often enslaved—were buried in what were referred to as "Negroe Burial Grounds." The site has since been named a National Monument, and a visitor center opened in 2010.
290 Broadway
New York, NY 10007

5. Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture

New York, NY
This Harlem cultural institution focuses explicitly on the history and culture of people of African descent. The Schomburg Center is part of the New York Public Library system and was named after Afro-Puerto Rican scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg. In January 2017, it was officially declared a National Historic Landmark.

6. Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational And Cultural Center

3940 Broadway, New York, NY 10032
Long before the building at 3940 Broadway in Washington Heights became a memorial to civil rights activists Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, it functioned as a theater and dance hall known as the Audubon Ballroom. After leaving the Nation of Islam and founding the Organization of Afro-American Unity, Malcolm X held weekly meetings at the Audubon. It was here, too, that the civil rights leader was assassinated while giving a speech in 1965. Today, the building is an educational and cultural center that focuses on the advancement of human rights and social justice.
3940 Broadway
New York, NY 10032

7. Studio Museum in Harlem

144 W 125th St, New York, NY 10027
The country's first museum dedicated to contemporary African American artists was none other than Harlem's own Studio Museum. It was founded by a collective of local artists and activists who wanted to provide a one-of-a-kind way to support emerging artists of color, along with promoting arts education. The original museum was located within a Fifth Avenue loft, but its organizers were gifted the building at 144 West 125th Street by the New York Bank for Savings. Now, the institution offers programs for seniors and children along with Target Free Sundays.
144 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027

8. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

405 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019
Though it's moved several times since its founding in 1969, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center has been a New York City staple for more than nearly 50 years. Originally the company was comprised of all black performers but was later converted into a multi-racial group. Credited with revolutionizing modern dance, the Ailey School moved into its permanent location at West 55th Street after spending more than 20 years at their first Manhattan location on Broadway.

A photo posted by Nicole Gallo (@nikki_g_7) on

405 W 55th St
New York, NY 10019

9. Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

140-7 West 137th Stre, New York, NY 10030
Casually known as "Mother Zion," this Harlem church was founded in 1796 and was New York City's first African American church. During the 1930s, the church attracted the likes of elite black scholars, entertainers, and civil rights activists. Joe Louis, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and Madame C.J. Walker are just a handful of the many notable figures who attended sermons at Mother Zion.
140-7 West 137th Stre
New York, NY 10030

10. Weeksville Heritage Center

1698 Bergen St, Brooklyn, NY 11213
Founded in the 1840s, Weeksville, Brooklyn was one of the country's first communities of free African Americans. Many had fled from Manhattan during the draft riots of 1863 to escape lynching. Just three of the community's houses remaining standing but the area has been preserved by way of the Weeksville Heritage Center, a museum the depicts what life was like for this pre-Civil War community. In 2013, a modern building designed by Caples Jefferson Architects opened as a museum and visitors' center.
1698 Bergen St
Brooklyn, NY 11213

11. Shirley Chisholm Circle

900 Prospect PL, Brooklyn, NY 11213
Brooklynite Shirley Chisholm was a pioneer in many ways: She was the first black women elected to Congress (representing New York's 12th district for more than a decade), and in 1972, she became the first African American to run for president. To celebrate her enduring legacy, in 2016, the NYC Department of Parks, along with several local officials dedicated a new public space" to Chisholm within Bed-Stuy's Brower Park. Shirley Chisholm Circle is a lovely paved terrace with a commemorative plaque to remind generations to come of her tireless activism and fight for equal rights.
900 Prospect PL
Brooklyn, NY 11213

12. Addisleigh Park Historic District

110-40 177th St, Jamaica, NY 11433
In the early 20th century, more than 400 houses were built in Queens's St. Albans neighborhood. The area was dubbed Addisleigh Park and the newly built homes were supposed to be exclusively for white buyers. However, many notable African Americans, including James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, and Count Basie, would not be deterred—by defying the discriminatory rules, wealthy blacks forced the neighborhood to integrate. Many of its breathtaking homes remain in pristine condition, and luckily, they will stay that way: In 2011, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved the neighborhood's designation as a historic district.
110-40 177th St
Jamaica, NY 11433

13. Black Spectrum Theatre

177th St & Baisley Blvd, Jamaica, NY 11434
The Black Spectrum Theatre was introduced to the world as a small traveling theater company made up of performers from Afro, Caribbean, and Latino descent before opening a professional theater within Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, Queens. It has since grown and is now is a 325-seat venue that aims to bring theater, film, and performing arts to southeastern Queens by showcasing the work of emerging African American directors, performers, and playwrights.
177th St & Baisley Blvd
Jamaica, NY 11434

14. Ebbets Field

1700 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11225
Back when Brooklyn had its own baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, Ebbets Field was their home turf. It was a small stadium by today's standards, with only a 35,000 seat capacity—hardly enough to accommodate the many fans who lined up to see the 1955 World Series-winning Dodgers. But something of much larger cultural significance took place at the erstwhile stadium. Ebbets Field is where Jackie Robinson broke the color line when he was signed by the Dodgers, becoming the first black player to play in the major league. Sadly, the stadium was demolished in 1967 and a complex named the Ebbets Field Apartments now sits in its place.
1700 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11225

15. Minton's

206 W 118th St, New York, NY 10026
Though it's now one of the city's best brunch spots, Minton's in Harlem once was a vibrant jazz club and the birthplace of bebop. Minton's Playhouse, as it was known, was founded by the first black delegate of the American Federation of Musicians, Henry Minton. Virtually every legendary jazz player—Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, you get the idea—played there at some point in its heyday. Even as a restaurant, Minton's has preserved its legacy as the birthplace of the jazz boom and features a menu inspired by African American culture.
206 W 118th St
New York, NY 10026