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5 fun places in America with screwed up racist stories


Central Park was created through the destruction of a minority community

Imagine a hypothetical traveler visiting New York City without prior knowledge of the location. You’ll see towering skyscrapers, exclusive retail stores, and apartment buildings that their proud guide says occupy some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Then they reach a huge expanse of grass and ponds that take up more than a square mile. “Wow,” they say. “It’s amazing that the city cut off the development of space to protect nature!”

Stig Nygaard
“There is even a castle where the noble Duke of York lives!”

Your guide then informs our imaginary Yokel that city parks are really rarely nature reserves; They are planned spaces. Before New York built Central Park, something was in its place. What that was … well, the Führer may be a little cagey. Why? Because there were a number of villages up to the city took the land of the inhabitants by force.

Before Central Park, before 1855, the area had small settlements like the attractively named Pigtown and larger communities like Seneca Village. The residents were mostly black, and just before the land was seized there was a growing Irish population and some Germans as well. All were groups struggling to make it elsewhere in the city (New York abolished slavery in 1827, but things didn’t go great right away). Some people just hung out on unclaimed land and the city kicked them out and told them it was time to stop crouching rent free. But in places like Seneca Village, people were legitimate landowners until the government seized it and dispersed it.

Egbert Ludovicus Many
Unfortunately, 19th century maps really undercut the quality of real estate.

For decades, the official story was that the country only had crappy shantytowns and New York was doing a public service by vacating them. That was a lie. These were multi-story houses, and the people there were busy, paying taxes, and voting (black New Yorkers had to own land to vote). The area even included three churches and cemeteries, the locations of which have been lost to history. The city paid some compensation for the landowners, but not much. Had they kept their land, all of their descendants would be multimillionaires today. What happened to the actual offspring? Historians were unable to track a single one.

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