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Seneca Village and Little Africa: Two African American Communities in Antebellum New York City

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African Americans in antebellum New York City followed several different residence strategies in the face of ongoing discrimination. Most lived in enclaves, dispersed throughout poorer neighborhoods that were by no means primarily black. One such enclave was Little Africa. Some lived separately in places like Seneca Village, an African American community just outside of town. This study compares the residents of these two neighborhoods and suggests that the members of these groups were quite different from each other in a number of ways. Aggregation of these differences suggests that the groups represent different socioeconomic classes. This finding runs counter to the views of many commentators and scholars (including archaeologists) who talk about the “African American community,” implying that the African American population formed (and forms) a homogeneous whole.

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Wall, D.d., Rothschild, N.A. & Copeland, C. Seneca Village and Little Africa: Two African American Communities in Antebellum New York City. Hist Arch 42, 97–107 (2008).

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