Demystifying the History of Black Displacement in New York City

 

The Project

New York has a long history of displacing Black communities. This project will explore the history in four parts starting in 1690 and ending in present day. The project draws on census data, historical events, and archival images to visualize the events of the past and present.  

Why Now?

Gentrification is a topic on the minds of many but the driving forces behind gentrification are centuries in the making. With the current political climate in America and its ongoing struggle to reconcile the role of institutional racism in our society, it is timely to begin unpacking the history of mechanisms of oppression. If we seek to advance together as a society, it's important to understand the factors of the past in order to design a better present.

PROPOSAL

This project relies on public data provided by government agencies and spans three centuries of public record. To tell the full story of displacement, the project will be executed in four parts.

Building the Empire State (1690-1857)

Harlem, The Birthplace (1900-1940)

Red Lines and Urban Decay (1960-1989)

A Noha Rebirth (1990-present)

 

Excerpt: Building the Empire State

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The Leveling of Seneca Village

One of the earliest documented cases of a Black community being pushed from their land is a little known settlement called Seneca Village. Seneca Village was a bustling community of prominent free Blacks. It was founded in the 1820's when Emancipation for all African Americans was still 40 years away.  

In 1857, Seneca Village was demolished and leveled to make way for Central Park. The City of New York claimed eminent domain over the town and 264 people lost their homes, property, and investments. Homes, several churches, and a cemetery were razed and it's existence went long forgotten until the site was excavated in the 1990's.

 
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Historic-Seneca-Village-1.jpg
 
 

Harlem Then And Now

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Harlem was once the epicenter of Black culture in New York City. The Harlem Renaissance saw the birth of a cultural revolution and agency for Black people in America. Over the decades, Harlem has experienced a slow decline. In the last twenty years, city developers have taken to "revitalizing" Harlem. The effects have caused mass displacement of Black people. The below animation represents the displacement of Black people out of Harlem between 2000-2010.

 125th St and Lenox Ave, 1928

125th St and Lenox Ave, 1928

 125th and Lenox Ave, 2017

125th and Lenox Ave, 2017

 

Between the year 2000 and 2010 areas in West Harlem like Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights have lost up to 25% of its Black residents while simultaneously experiencing a 200-300% increase in White residents. The influx of White residents has also brought an influx in median rent prices throughout Harlem.

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The goal of this project is to provide historical context for the phenomena of displacement and encourage a closer examination of popular historical narratives. Often times, the narrative of the disenfranchised is removed from history. This project is an effort to reinstate forgotten narratives and tell the story through visualized data.

 

Continued

The gifs below are explorations of what the article might look like. I was very inspired by some of the interactive data visualizations generated by the team at The New York Times. I like the way the team leverages interactivity as a means to progress the written piece. I feel this approach is especially effective in investigative journalism.

This project is historical investigative journalism but the precedents set in the 1600's still have repercussions today. The entire story is happening on one island over centuries so I decided to center the focus of the experience on the map of Manhattan and allow the user to navigate their way through the story using the map.  Clicking the points of interest reveal the narrative. The narrative is advanced by revealing data that supports the narrative.

Losing Black Manhattan_v.2.gif