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.
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 (1609-1664)
Length: 1.5 hrs | Saturdays at 7:30pm | Meet up at Washington Square Park under the Arch at 5th Avenue
The first of five in the core stories of the Black Gotham Experience 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 English take the island from the Dutch, making it the first free Black community in New York. This walking tour explains how this community started and how it continued to exist into the 18th century. Other Side of Wall Street concludes on the first day of British New York in September 1664.
Sarah’s Fire (1680 – 1712)
Formerly known as “Caesar’s Rebellion Part I”
Length: 1.5 hrs | Thursdays at 7:30pm | Meet up at the BGX Studio on 192 Front Street in Manhattan
The second of five in the core stories of the Black Gotham Experience starts in 1664 in the small town known as Land of the Blacks on day two of British New York. Sarah’s Fire is a tale set on the southern tip of the island Manhattan that is home to both free and enslaved Black people. This walking tour illustrates the peculiar universe of urban slavery in a port city with deep ties to the sugar plantations of the West Indies. A key persona in this story is an enslaved woman named Sarah who is one of 29 people that participate in the first militarized Black rebellion on the island of Manhattan on April 6 1712.
Sarah’s Fire departs from BGX Nerdy Thursdays, the free weekly mixer featuring cocktails, culture and conversation.
Caesar’s Rebellion (1712 – 1765)
Formerly known as “Caesar’s Rebellion Part II”
The third of five in the core stories of the Black Gotham Experience starts in 1712 in the wake of more slave codes passed in British New York. The port city of New York has shifting political and class divisions that shape the environment of the enslaved leading up to the 1730s. 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 that seek change. The result is a rebellion in 1741 known as “the Great Negro Plot” which is documented in a New York Supreme Court. The extensive journal by one of the justices stitches together a plot that evolved around a charismatic enslaved Black figure named Caesar. This journal gives 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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