Educator Kamau Ware is on a mission to educate others about New York’s rich yet rarely told black history.
In light of his passion for pursuing history, Ware created the Black Gotham Experience in 2010, which offers walking tours throughout areas of Manhattan where black people historically played pivotal roles in the city’s development. The Huffington Post Black Voices met with Ware last Wednesday as we kicked off Black History Month with a virtual tour through the city.
Ware explained that he launched the Black Gotham Experience after he was asked one particular question during a separate tour he led at the Tenement Museum in 2008.
“I was challenged by a child while giving a tour at another museum and they asked me at the end of the walking tour where the black people were basically in the 1800s,” Ware told The Huffington Post last week.
“I felt like that was a very important question to be asked by a young girl who was more or less just curious about how come she doesn’t see the black experience represented in museums and in media and in books or in classrooms,” he continued. “And so I began doing my research [and] came out with a way to share that information.”
Ware said this research led him to realize that certain landmark occurrences in black history like the Transatlantic Slave Trade bore significant roots in New York City. He went on to construct and lead nightly tours to impart his knowledge of the slave trade, the Reconstruction Era and much more.
Ware currently hosts a trilogy of tours: “Other Side Of Wall Street”, “Caesar’s Rebellion” and “Citizen Hope,” all of which span the history of black people in New York from 1609 to 1883.
The Caesar’s Rebellion tour, which focuses on the first armed black rebellion in 1712, the unison of free and enslaved black people and other historical black events, is typically divided into two parts but Ware gave HuffPost a preview of the tour, which can be seen in the clip below:
“One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about slavery in the North is that it was small, it was minimal,” he said.
Yet, according to an article published by Newsweek, NYC once had the second highest slave population, next to Charleston, South Carolina. Ware ,ho is currently working on a graphic novel under the Black Gotham brand, says he is committed to offering new ways to tell New York’s lesser-known black history.
“New York City is named after James Stuart, Duke of York who was a major slave trader before he became the king,” Ware said. “You got to understand that New York is critical to understanding the black diaspora’s experience.”
To learn even more about New York’s hidden history, watch the full video below: