4. Fort Greene was a major center of the abolitionist movement

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church

The story of Fort Greene’s development was shaped by the contributions of many Black residents and cultural institutions. New York State ended slavery in 1827 (although it would take until 1841 for the complete outlawing statewide), and 20 years later, the first school for African Americans opened, simply called “Coloured School No. 1.” The school was located on the grounds of the present0day Walt Whitman Houses.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, founded in 1857 by abolitionists, brought in speakers such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman to rally efforts to end slavery. The church was also a major player in helping people escape via the Underground Railroad. A few years later, during the 1863 Draft Riots, Black workers defended their rights at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard. By 1870, approximately half of Brooklyn’s Black population lived in Fort Greene. Among the neighborhood’s residents was Susan McKinney Steward, the first African American woman to earn a medical degree in New York State.