San Juan Hill: What To Know About New York’s Original Black Neighborhood

| How Africa News


Before it was renamed Lincoln Square in 1940, this section of Manhattan was known as San Juan Hill, and it was home to the majority of New York City’s Black population prior to Harlem and the Bronx.

Both San Juan Hill and Lincoln Square have unpronounceable names. It is thought to have been named after President Theodore Roosevelt’s 10th Cavalry, which took part in the Battle of San Juan Hill. Although this is the most likely origin of the name, it has never been proven or refuted.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the neighborhood housed the majority of the city’s Blacks. It also had a sizable Afro-Caribbean population. Several jazz performers grew up or lived in the region throughout the 1920s, including Thelonious Monk, who relocated to San Juan Hill in 1922, James P. Johnson, the composer of the “Charleston,” and Denzil Best, who grew up there.

The neighborhood was also notorious for criminality and battles between Blacks and Irish.


The End for San Juan Hill

San Juan Hill had a reputation as one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City by the late 1930s. In fact, it was dubbed the “worst slum” in the city. While this was due to a lack of city participation, it was also a blow to the area’s reputation, making it all the easier to label it as a “urban renewal” location.

San Juan Hill was put on the chopping block, as is common in these projects. After WWII, the city began demolishing sections of the neighbor to make space for Lincoln Center. As a result, around 7,700 individuals relocated to new housing developments in Harlem and the Bronx. There was no San Juan Hill by the 1950s, and construction on Lincoln Center began.

Written by How Africa News

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