Black Gotham Experience’s origins are rooted in a simple life-changing question from a child:
Where were the Black people?
The question was deeper than one of geography. The question was one of identity – Where are Black people in the story of New York City and how did Black people get here?
Inspired by her question, Kamau Ware created the first Black Gotham walking tour in 2008. Two years later in 2010 this first tour debuted, combining history and visual storytelling to celebrate the impact of the African Diaspora on New York City.
In the spring of 2008 on New York City’s Lower East Side, Kamau Ware was working as a Tenement Museum educator, and giving the “Getting By” tour to a group of African-descent middle school students. Kamau explained how German Jewish and Italian immigrants who lived there struggled in the late 19th and early 20th century. At the tour’s end, one of the girls who had been silent the entire time raised her hand and asked: “Where were the Black people?”
This question ignited Kamau to begin researching New York City’s African past. He was surprised to realize that Black people literally helped lay the foundation for the city. The Black Gotham Experience started two years later in 2010 with walking tours. Through further research, Kamau realized that the first century of New York City’s history is a visual abyss (outside of portraits and maps), which lead Black Gotham Experience to expand into graphic novels that create the missing visuals of these lived experiences.