On October 19th, Kamau Ware delved into the history of African diaspora on Manhattan island from Dutch New Amsterdam to British New York. Black Gotham Experience, a visual storytelling project about how Black diaspora historically influenced and shaped New York. Jennifer Morgan (NYU) moderated.
The first Africans arrived in New Amsterdam when the Dutch captured a Portuguese slave ship. These people built New Amsterdam, the Broad Way, and Fort Amsterdam, which later became New York, Broadway, and Wall Street. These lives risk being forgotten: “history is dictated by what’s collected. If it’s not collected, it’s not there,” said Ware, who conducts intensive research to learn more about this time period. The Black Gotham Experience fights the bias of recorded history to bring that history alive, through communal art forms such as walking tours and graphic novels.
A Black Gotham walking tour “feels like therapy,” said Ware, referring to the healing power of experiencing painful history through art. Black Gotham works to create images of people of color in New Amsterdam and New York through graphic novel; those images and artifacts don’t exist, they weren’t archived because they weren’t seen as important. Ware and Black Gotham Experience do vital work: filling in the gaps of history.
Experience the full event in the video below.