Black Gotham Experience walking tours bring you into a reconstructed New Netherland and British New York. Participants witness the impact of the African Diaspora on the making of New York City and the birth of the United States of America through real people whose images have been erased. Insight and empathy allow emotional connections to these character-based stories that stay with you after the tour ends.
Walking tours are available as private and public experiences. Public tours are organized in Fall, Spring, and Summer seasons which include special events such as open studios, talks, exhibitions. The upcoming Fall 2017 season features Caesar’s Rebellion Part I and Part II, and the long-awaited return of the Other Side of Wall Street.
Droga5 Team/ Droga5
As we stood on the waterfront, and Kamau eloquently relayed the tales of ships coming into the port and brought to life the topography of NYC at the time, I was truly transported. He didn't just give a tour, he provided a historical experience. The tour was quite an eye opener. I have lived in NYC all my life but the school system failed to mention the historic details pertaining to how NYC was settled and the role it played in the slave trade.
There is a way that Kamau teaches history that is, in itself, an act of rebellion - history as stories of individuals whose lives we learned about, stepped into, and empathized with during the tour. I came away from the tour thinking critically about race, class, and revolution - who leads it, who works together for it, and what forces work together to stop it. Black Gotham Experience changed how I see the streets where I walk everyday on my way to work and makes me wonder, "Why didn't I know this history until now?"
Fall 2016 Tour Goer
I've never seen something like that on a walking tour. It really made the story come alive, which makes sense because it involved people who really, you know, lived.
Summer 2016 Tour Goer
The way we "discovered" the WHYs together made a real difference too. It was cool to learn about this hidden history!
Other Side of Wall Street (1609-1680)
Length: 1.5 hrs | Saturdays at 7:30pm | Meet up at Washington Square Park under the Arch at 5th Avenue
The first story in the trilogy starts in 1643 with the beginning of a small town known as Land of the Blacks right outside the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. By 1655, the Land of the Blacks was over twice the size of SoHo today and it continued to exist after the British took the island from the Dutch, making it the first free Black community in New York. This walking tour explains how this community started, how it functioned, and how it continued to exist into the 18th century. The creation of this overlooked Black town is the foundation to the Black Gotham Experience. This summer season, you can also experience some of the pages from “Other Side of Wall Street” on display in Financial District installations on Water Street and Gouverneur Lane in a public art project presented by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Department of Transportation.
Caesar’s Rebellion Part I (1680 – 1712)
Length: 1.5 hrs | Thursdays at 7:30pm | Meet up at the BGX Work/Space on 192 Front Street in Manhattan
The second story in the trilogy starts in 1680 when the port city of New York is serving as the epicenter to the British Transatlantic Slave Trade. Part One of this story is set on an island that is home to the wealthy master class, merchants, pirates, sailors, indentures, prostitutes, free Black people, and enslaved Africans. This walking tour explains how the enslaved and free people of African descent worked together to subvert the system of slavery and define rebellion. Central to this story are several enslaved men by the name of Caesar being brought to the port city of New York from the sugar plantations of the West Indies culminating with the first armed Black rebellion in 1712.
Caesar’s Rebellion Part II (1712 – 1762)
Length: 1.5 hrs | Fridays at 7:30pm | Meet up on the stairs at the Museum of the American Indian
Part Two of Caesar’s Rebellion picks up after the rebellion of 1712 when the political leaders of New York pass more laws to restrict Black movement. The port city of New York has shifting political and class divisions that shape the environment of the enslaved. Although stricter laws have been passed to limit Black life, the population of enslaved Africans continues to increase as does poor European indentures creating a large and loosely organized underclass. The result is another rebellion in 1741 known as “the Great Negro Plot”. Unlike most rebellions in the colonies or West Indies, the conspirators were tried in the New York Supreme Court which was documented in an extensive journal by one of the justices creating an insightful look into slavery, colonial law, class, and politics.
Citizen Hope Part I (1765-1838)
Length: 1.5 hrs. | Scheduled for Summer 2018
The third story in the trilogy begins in 1765 during the uproar over the Stamp Act that foreshadows the American Revolutionary War. In Part One of Citizen Hope, we follow New York’s transition from the epicenter of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to a port city that has abolished slavery and openly welcomes escaped Africans to join the British Army in exchange for their freedom. We examine the politics of slavery during and immediately following the American Revolution with close attention to how New York City transitions back to slavery after the war. This walking tour illustrates the rise of abolitionism, the underground railroad, and the beginning of African-American identity.
Citizen Hope Part II (1838-1883)
Length: 1.5 hrs. | Scheduled for Fall 2018
Part Two of Citizen Hope picks up in 1838 when the greatest concentration of Black people live in and around the notorious Five Points. We follow known and lesser known Black historic figures who challenge the newly formed Republic’s embrace of slavery leading up to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act and eventually the Civil War. New York City is the backdrop for race riots, political drama, and economies that connect the north and south during a brutal unprecedented domestic war. In the aftermath of war, Black communities make tremendous strides during the Reconstruction Era but gains are reversed during acts of southern terrorism that will lead to the Great Migration, increasing the Black population in New York City. Part two of Citizen Hope brings the epic series of stories of the Black Gotham Experience into a dramatic conclusion.
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