Weeksville Heritage Center – Brooklyn, New York - Atlas Obscura
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Brooklyn, New York

Weeksville Heritage Center

Discover some of Brooklyn's 19th century African American roots. 

Weeksville Heritage Center is home to a small stretch of historic homes that were once part of the Weeksville community: one of America’s first free black enclaves. Despite its historical significance, the village was nearly forgotten until the 1960s. 

The Lefferts family were among the biggest land and slave owners in King’s County by the time slavery was abolished in New York in 1927. Shortly thereafter, they began selling off parcels of land. One buyer was prominent abolitionist Henry C. Thompson, who bought up plenty of property to sell to fellow African Americans. He sold two plots to Longshoreman John Weeks, who built himself a house and began to form a community. Weeksville was born. 

By the 1850s, Weeksville had a population of more than 500 people and had its own churches, schools, and businesses. Despite its success and having been home to several important figures (including Dr. Susan Smith McKinney, the state’s first African American female doctor, and New York’s first African-American police officer), Weeksville’s influence and legacy faded as Brooklyn developed around it. 

When a pair of researchers stumbled upon a mention of the community in a history book in 1968, the village had been largely forgotten. Threatened by demolition, the historians brought much-needed exposure to four houses that remained on Hunterfly Road: the remnants of Weeksville. 

Since then, preservationists have worked tirelessly to protect and restore the historic homes. These efforts culminated in 2014 with the opening of a modern community center devoted to the houses and their heritage, ensuring that the story of Weeksville would never be forgotten again. 

 

Know Before You Go

Accessible from A,C Train at Utica Station