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About the Buildings

During the early to mid-20th century, African-American artists, attorneys, bankers, builders, dancers, designers, gangsters, musicians, playwrights, sociologists, and many more types from all walks of life were drawn to 409 and 555 Edgecombe Avenue. The level of activism was so high that it resonated internationally. Paul Robeson’s performance on the battlefield during the Spanish Civil War stopped the fighting momentarily. W.E.B. Du Bois, the father of Pan Africanism, helped to inspire the Bandung Conference, bringing issues of the “Third World” to the fore. He’s also considered the father of American sociology. Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, developed the groundbreaking doll experiment that revealed the negative effects of white supremacy on Black children. Kenneth Clark was also a Civil Rights activist: He was sought by Robert F. Kennedy to advise him and, ultimately, his brother, John, on matters of desegregation and voting rights.


The legacies left by the previous Black denizens, until the recent population changes caused by the new, largely white, influx into both houses, were in full effect: Both houses were home to a socioeconomic cross section of Black America, with practically every type of profession represented, including New York City Transit workers, teachers, seamstresses, judges, physicians, actors, award-winning musicians, union leaders, and a Pulitzer Prize nominee.

The Buildings