African Americans in New York City
Total population
2.1 million alone (25%), 2.2 million including partial African ancestry (27%) (2019)
Regions with significant populations
Mostly Harlem, Central Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens, although declining due to blacks moving to suburbs.[1]
African American Vernacular English, New York City English, American English, Caribbean English, Jamaican Patois[2]
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, irreligious[3]
Related ethnic groups
Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latin American, African immigrants, Afro-Dominicans, Afro-Puerto Ricans, Afro-Guyanese, Trinidadians, Jamaicans, Surinamese, Haitians, Barbadians, Black Hispanic and Latino Americans, Caribbeans in New York City, Black Jews in New York City

African Americans constitute one of the longer-running ethnic presences in New York City. The majority of the African American population were sold from their villages in West and Central Africa and brought to the American South via the Atlantic slave trade.


125th Street in Harlem, an African and African American cultural center.
125th Street in Harlem, an African and African American cultural center.

According to the 2010 Census, New York City had the largest population of black residents of any U.S. city, with over 2 million within the city's boundaries, although this number has decreased since 2000.[4] New York City had more black people than did the entire state of California until the 1980 Census. The black community consists of immigrants and their descendants from Africa and the Caribbean as well as native-born African-Americans. Many of the city's black residents live in Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem and The Bronx. Several of the city's neighborhoods are historical birthplaces of urban black culture in America, among them the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford–Stuyvesant and Manhattan's Harlem and various sections of Eastern Queens and The Bronx. Bedford-Stuyvesant is considered to have the highest concentration of black residents in the United States. New York City has the largest population of black immigrants (at 686,814) and descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean (especially from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Guyana, Belize, Grenada, and Haiti), Latin America (Afro-Latinos), and of sub-Saharan Africans. In a news item of April 3, 2006, however, the New York Times noted that for the first time since the American Civil War, the recorded African American population was declining, because of emigration to other regions, a declining African American birthrate in New York, and decreased immigration of black people from the Caribbean and Africa.[5]



Main article: History of slavery in New York

After abolition

Following the final abolition of slavery in New York in 1827, New York City emerged as one of the largest pre-Civil War metropolitan concentrations of free African-Americans, and many institutions were established to advance the community in the antebellum period. It was the site of the first African-American periodical journal, Freedom's Journal, which lasted for two years and renamed The Rights of All for a third year before fading to obsolescence; the newspaper served as both a powerful voice for the abolition lobby in the United States as well as a voice of information for the African population of New York City and other metropolitan areas. The African Dorcas Association was also established to provide educational and clothing aid to Black youth in the city.[citation needed]

However, New York residents were less willing to give blacks equal voting rights. By the constitution of 1777, voting was restricted to free men who could satisfy certain property requirements for value of real estate. This property requirement disfranchised poor men among both blacks and whites. The reformed Constitution of 1821 conditioned suffrage for black men by maintaining the property requirement, which most could not meet, so effectively disfranchised them. The same constitution eliminated the property requirement for white men and expanded their franchise.[6] No women yet had the vote in New York. "As late as 1869, a majority of the state's voters cast ballots in favor of retaining property qualifications that kept New York's polls closed to many blacks. African-American men did not obtain equal voting rights in New York until ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870."[6]

The emancipated African-Americans established communities in the New York City area, including Seneca Village in what is now Central Park of Manhattan and Sandy Ground on Staten Island, and Weeksville in Brooklyn. These communities were among the earliest.[citation needed]

The city was a nerve center for the abolitionist movement in the United States.[citation needed]

After the Civil War

Harlem and Great Migration

Main articles: Harlem and Harlem Renaissance

Philip A. Payton, Jr.
Philip A. Payton, Jr.

The violent rise of Jim Crow in the Deep and Upper South led to the mass migration of African Americans, including ex-slaves and their free-born children, from those regions to northern metropolitan areas, including New York City. Their mass arrival coincided with the transition of the center of African-American power and demography in the city from other districts of the city to Harlem.[citation needed][7]

The tipping point occurred on June 15, 1904, when up-and-coming real estate entrepreneur Philip A. Payton, Jr. established the Afro-American Realty Company, which began to aggressively buy and lease houses in the ethnically mixed but predominantly-white Harlem following the housing crashes of 1904 and 1905. In addition to an influx of long-time African-American residents from other neighborhoods,[8] the Tenderloin, San Juan Hill (now the site of Lincoln Center), Little Africa around Minetta Lane in Greenwich Village and Hell's Kitchen in the west 40s and 50s.[9][10] The move to northern Manhattan was driven in part by fears that anti-black riots such as those that had occurred in the Tenderloin in 1900[11] and in San Juan Hill in 1905[12] might recur. In addition, a number of tenements that had been occupied by blacks in the west 30s were destroyed at this time to make way for the construction of the original Penn Station.

Caribbean immigration

Main article: Caribbean immigration to New York City

The Great Depression and demographic shift

Harlem's decline as the center of the Afro-American population in New York City began with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. In the early 1930s, 25% of Harlemites were out of work, and employment prospects for Harlemites stayed bad for decades. Employment among black New Yorkers fell as some traditionally black businesses, including domestic service and some types of manual labor, were taken over by other ethnic groups. Major industries left New York City altogether, especially after 1950. Several riots happened in this period, including in 1935 and 1943. Following the construction of the IND Fulton Street Line[13] in 1936, African Americans left an overcrowded Harlem for greater housing availability in Bedford–Stuyvesant. migrants from the American South brought the neighborhood's black population to around 30,000, making it the second largest Black community in the city at the time. During World War II, the Brooklyn Navy Yard attracted many blacks to the neighborhood as an opportunity for employment, while the relatively prosperous war economy enabled many of the resident Jews and Italians to move to Queens and Long Island. By 1950, the number of blacks in Bedford–Stuyvesant had risen to 155,000, comprising about 55 percent of the population of Bedford–Stuyvesant.[14] In the 1950s, real estate agents and speculators employed blockbusting to turn a profit. As a result, formerly middle class white homes were being turned over to poorer black families. By 1960, eighty-five percent of the population was black.[14]

African-Americans and the COVID-19 pandemic

During the initial the outbreak of the COVID-19, mortuary trucks like these were used by hospitals and morgues across the city to house the dead.[15]
During the initial the outbreak of the COVID-19, mortuary trucks like these were used by hospitals and morgues across the city to house the dead.[15]

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected African Americans, or Black Americans living inside the United States.[16] Black Americans are more likely to contract COVID-19, more likely to be hospitalized, and more likely to die from COVID-19 than White, non-Hispanic Americans.[17] Many Black Americans work jobs without health insurance coverage, leading to an inability to seek proper medical care when faced with a severe COVID-19 case.[16] Furthermore, Black Americans were overrepresented in jobs labeled essential when governments began reacting to the pandemic, such as grocery store workers, transit workers, and civil jobs. This meant Black Americans continued to work jobs that posed higher risk to exposure to COVID-19.[18]

The unique combination of stressors faced by Black people in America under the COVID-19 Pandemic has put many Black social systems and crisis-meeting resources under stress. The Black Church has historically been a place of community support, recognition, and social connections for African-American communities, a community that provides access to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that many Black Americans face systematic difficulty in attaining.[19] The policy of Social Distancing as recommended for the sake of public health in COVID-19 has contributed to the hardships faced by all humans, but has affected Black Americans and their social systems especially.[19] Black Americans that live within the poor and underserviced neighborhoods rely on complex social and religious organizations, including the Black Church, to meet their physical and emotional needs.[20] Social Distancing has led to an increased difficulty in maintaining these essential social relationships, resulting in increased social isolation throughout Black communities.[20]

Within New York City, these issues are present or intensified. The COVID-19 Pandemic has revealed the long-standing systemic racism present throughout New York City's healthcare system, especially in terms of access to critical healthcare resources in underserviced, and often predominantly black communities.[21] This inability to properly treat affected Black residents of certain New York City zip-codes is especially harsh when contrasted by the abundance of empty hospital beds and available resources of the hospitals in more affluent and well off communities.[21] The racial inequality between zip codes is further highlighted when examining COVID-19 testing rates, where zip-codes of predominantly Black New Yorkers are at a significantly higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19.[22] Of the ten zip codes in New York City with highest COVID-19 death rates, eight of them are Black or Hispanic.[23]

See also


Notable New Yorkers


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Bloomquist, Jennifer; Green, Lisa J.; Lanehart, Sonja L.; Blake, Renée A.; Shousterman, Cara; Newlin-Lukowicz, Luiza (2015). "African American Language in New York City". The Oxford Handbook of African American Language. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199795390.013.37. ISBN 978-0-19-979539-0.
  3. ^ "Religious Landscape Study".
  4. ^ Roberts, Sam (3 April 2006). "New York City Losing Blacks, Census Shows". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b "African American Voting Rights" Archived 2010-11-09 at the Wayback Machine, New York State Archives, accessed 11 February 2012
  6. ^ Editors. (2010, March 4). The Great Migration.
  7. ^ "The Making of Harlem," Archived 2006-06-15 at the Wayback Machine James Weldon Johnson, The Survey Graphic, March 1925
  8. ^ "Negro Districts in Manhattan", The New York Times, November 17, 1901.
  9. ^ "Negroes Move Into Harlem", New York Herald, December 24, 1905.
  10. ^ Alphonso Pinkney & Roger Woock, Poverty and Politics in Harlem, College & University Press Services, Inc., 1970, p. 26.
  11. ^ "Harlem, the Village That Became a Ghetto", Martin Duberman, in New York, N.Y.: An American Heritage History of the Nation's Greatest City, 1968
  12. ^ Echanove, Matias. "Bed-Stuy on the Move" Archived 2017-09-16 at the Wayback Machine. Master thesis. Urban Planning Program. Columbia University. 2003.
  13. ^ a b Newfield, Jack (1988). Robert Kennedy: A Memoir (reprint ed.). New York: Penguin Group. pp. 87–109. ISBN 0-452-26064-7.
  14. ^ Ochs, Caitlin; Cherelus, Gina (27 May 2020). "Opinion | 'Dead Inside': The Morgue Trucks of New York City". The New York Times.
  15. ^ a b "2020 State of Black America". Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  16. ^ CDC (2020-02-11). "Cases, Data, and Surveillance". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  17. ^ "Who are essential workers?: A comprehensive look at their wages, demographics, and unionization rates". Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
  18. ^ a b Chaney, Cassandra (October 2020). "Family Stress and Coping Among African Americans in the Age of COVID-19". Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 51 (3–4): 254–273. doi:10.3138/jcfs.51.3-4.003. S2CID 226357674.
  19. ^ a b Davis, Dannielle Joy; Chaney, Cassandra; BeLue, Rhonda (October 2020). "Why 'We Can't Breathe' During COVID-19". Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 51 (3–4): 417–428. doi:10.3138/jcfs.51.3-4.015. S2CID 226377965.
  20. ^ a b Douglas, Jason A.; Subica, Andrew M. (December 2020). "COVID-19 treatment resource disparities and social disadvantage in New York City". Preventive Medicine. 141: 106282. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2020.106282. PMC 7536513. PMID 33035550.
  21. ^ DiMaggio, Charles; Klein, Michael; Berry, Cherisse; Frangos, Spiros (November 2020). "Black/African American Communities are at highest risk of COVID-19: spatial modeling of New York City ZIP Code–level testing results". Annals of Epidemiology. 51: 7–13. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.08.012. PMC 7438213. PMID 32827672.
  22. ^ Schwirtz, Michael; Cook, Lindsey Rogers (19 May 2020). "These N.Y.C. Neighborhoods Have the Highest Rates of Virus Deaths". The New York Times.
  23. ^ Boston, 677 Huntington Avenue; Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. "Harvard Chan Yerby Fellowship Program". Harvard Chan Yerby Fellowship Program. Retrieved 2020-06-26.