Welcome to Fort Greene
Nowadays the neighborhood is a significant cultural destination in New York City, housing the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and two movie theaters. Aside from BAM, Spike Lee’s film production company 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks is located in Fort Greene, as well as The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. Explore this Neighborhood
Fort Greene is a magnet for Black culture and talent! Entertainment and literary icons such as Spike Lee, Erykah Badu, Rosie Perez, Nelson George, Betty Carter, and Branford Marsalis have all called Fort Greene home. Historically, Fort Greene has always been a place that is steeped in rich African and African-American culture.
The area now known as Fort Greene was purchased by European settlers in 1637. Prior to its purchase, the area was inhabited by the Canarsie Indians: a tribe of Native Americans who were part of the Algonquin nation. The land was originally known as Wallabout Bay and is currently home to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
The neighborhood of Fort Greene gets its name from the fort that was built there under the supervision of American Revolutionary War general Nathaniel Greene in 1776. During the Battle of Long Island which also took place in 1776, General Greene aided General George Washington in evacuating his troops at night to the island of Manhattan. As a result the army was able to avoid defeat by the British.
In honor of General Greene’s valiant war effort, Brooklyn’s first official park, Washington Park had its name changed to Fort Greene Park. Most notably, the Park includes the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument and crypt which honors some 11,500 patriots– many of whom were African Americans who died aboard British prison ships during the American War of Independence.
During the American Revolution, thousands of African-Americans served on both the Continental and British Armies. For many African-Americans the American Revolution was not just a fight for liberty but a fight for emancipation. The neighborhood of Fort Greene played a vital role in the struggle for that freedom. Abolitionists formed the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1857, which served as a refuge for former slaves who escaped to freedom aided by the Underground Railroad. The church also hosted several important figures of the Abolitionist Movement, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.
New York State officially outlawed slavery in 1827. Twenty years later, Brooklyn’s first school for African-Americans opened at the current site of the Walt Whitman Houses located on Myrtle Avenue. Brooklyn Technical High School is also host to a sizable African American student population. The high school is the largest specialized school for science, technology, engineering and math in the United States.
In the early 20th century, the neighborhood became a popular cultural destination in New York City. Novelist Richard Wright wrote his seminal novel, Native Son while living on Carlton Avenue. In more recent years Fort Greene has established itself as a focal point in the emergence of Hip-Hop culture in New York City. Its proximity to the famed Albee Square Mall in Downtown Brooklyn’s main shopping district made it a stomping ground for many talented rappers and singers in the 80′s and 90′s.
Fort Greene is currently home to several important black cultural institutions, businesses, churches, and events including the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), The Paul Robeson Theater, Creative Outlet, Brooklyn Academy of Music- DanceAfrica, Evidence A Dance Company, Cake Man Raven, Moshood, 40 Acres and a Mule Film Works, as well as Brown Memorial Church, and Hanson Place Seventh Day Adventist Church.