6. Centerville AME Church, Bronx

map showing where Centerville AME church was
Unionport – Westchester – Schuylerville: Town & County of Westchester, NY, 1868. Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, NYPL Digital Collections

It is believed that there was a small free Black community in the Bronx, located along Unionport Road. The community likely developed around Centerville AME Church, which was founded in 1849 and was the first church to accept Black clergy. A map from the time points out a burial ground by the church for the community’s residents, as well as craftsmen workshops and employers of laborers. The burial ground was perhaps the only independent one known to have existed in the Bronx. The Hunts Point Slave Burial Ground, which was brought to light after the discovery of a 1910 photograph depicting gravestones, is located right by the East River, while this burial ground was located further northeast.

At the time, the community was located in the Town of Westchester, which later became part of the East Bronx. 187 African Americans lived in the town according to the 1840 census. It is estimated that at least 58 individuals were interred in the Bethel AME Church (which would become Centerville) cemetery between 1850 and 1894.