February is Black History Month, and we’d like to take a moment to reflect on the rich histories of movements and leaders from Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy. Read on for some history about our community!

In Crown Heights…

  • Activists who came out of Crown Heights include Junius C. Morel, Susan Smith McKinney Steward, and Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet. Morel was the principal of Colored School No. 2, which later became PS 68, the first integrated school in the country. He was also a famous journalist who fought for black independence as well as integration in public schools. Susan Smith McKinney Steward was the first black woman doctor in New York State. Her sister, Sarah Smith Tompkins Garnet, was Brooklyn’s first woman school principal. The two sisters created multiple suffrage organizations that were founded by and for black women, advocating for the woman’s right to vote.
  • Check out In Pursuit of Freedom, a website that showcases the anti-slavery and social justice movements of Brooklyn. It was created by the Weeksville Heritage Center in collaboration with the Brooklyn Historical Society and Irondale Theater. You’ll also find exhibits, events, and programs at the Center that capture the rich history of Weeksville.

And in Bed-Stuy…

  • Brooklyn CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) was especially active in Bed-Stuy in the 1960s. They protested outside buildings that filled apartments in discriminatory ways, and in front of companies with racist hiring practices. They worked to create more job opportunities, integrate schools, and desegregate housing.
  • On famous activists: Shirley Chisholm, from Bed-Stuy, was the first black woman elected to Congress, and the first black person to seek the nomination for president of the US. She introduced 50 different laws advocating for racial and gender equality, improved conditions for the poor, and ending the Vietnam War. Thomas R. Jones grew up in Bed-Stuy and later advocated for black labor groups and homeowners in the neighborhood, as well as against police brutality. He became a member of the New York State Assembly and a Justice of the New York Supreme Court. After experiencing racism in Brooklyn’s Democratic party, Chisholm, Jones, and another activist named Wesley Holder created the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League.