Pieces of the past can be found all throughout New York City. Today (May 23), the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to cement one building in history forever. The group decided to preserve a school built for Black children during the time of slavery as a historically significant landmark.
According to The New York Times, Colored School No. 4 was built around 1849, and in 1860, it became one of eight public primary schools for Black students in Manhattan. The Chelsea building continued to serve Black children exclusively until the city closed segregated public education institutions in 1894.
The effort to obtain landmark status for the historic building dates back several years. Historian Eric K. Washington urged the city to recognize its significance back in 2018 but was denied. After organizing a successful petition last year, the city couldn’t ignore its place in history any longer.
“We stand on the shoulders of the young men and women that attended this school, and while they may be gone, I am honored to ensure they will never be forgotten,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement, per The New York Times. The city will provide $6 million in funding to restore the yellow-brick building to its former glory, which is estimated to be completed by 2027.
Colored School No. 4 isn’t the only former segregated institution to have been designated across the five boroughs. Colored School No. 3 in Brooklyn, for example, has been a landmark since 1998. Extending the same honor to the Manhattan building shows “the importance of preserving the sites that tell the complete, sometimes challenging, story of our city,” according to Sarah Carroll, the chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The group believes that it signifies “a difficult, and often overlooked, period in our city’s history” and should be viewed as such.
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