A new walking tour sheds light on the history of Black resilience in NYCSasha Brady

A powerful two-part project, comprising of a self-guided tour led by artist Kamau Ware and a film by Howardena Pindell, explores New York City‘s 19th-century history of Black resilience in the face of racial violence.

At a time when every day feels the same, a new self-guided walking tour has come to get us out of the house and into the past. Retelling the story of New York City’s July 1863 race riots and the power of Black resilience, the immersive tour is narrated by artist and storyteller Kamau Ware and maps 11 sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn that were significant to the riots.

Black and white portrait photo of artist Kamau Ware
Artist and storyteller Kamau Ware ©The Shed

The tour stops in Weeksville, a slice of Crown Heights that in 1838 became one of the country’s first settlements of free Black landowners. Other stops include the African Burial Ground National Monument, the site that first inspired Ware to retell the story of these riots, sometimes known as the Manhattan draft riots (an “incorrect label” according to Ware), so that “the victims’ lives will not be forgotten”. 

“The insurrection that took place in the streets of New York City the week of July 13th, 1863, less than two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, was a blueprint for disenfranchising Black people before the Reconstruction Amendments were drafted,” said Ware. “This racial violence has been hiding in plain sight with the incorrect label of ‘draft riots’ for over a century-and-a-half.”

Black and white photo of Kamau Ware leading a walking tour in New York City
Kamau leading the tour ©The Shed

The experience can be undertaken as a self-guided walking tour, or, if you can’t leave the house, or you’re living outside of New York, you can enjoy it as an audio-only experience from home. The tour traces back 100 years from the May 1963 Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama, and is later explored by filmmaker Howardena Pindell in her film Rope/Fire/Water, which is the second part of the project and will be screened at the Shed in Hudson Yards, Manhattan.

“We hope people will take the time to walk, listen, learn, reflect, gain awareness, get inspired, and continue (or start) taking action in their own ways,” said Solana Chetman, director of Civic Programs. For more information, see here.

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