When both oysters and land were plentiful in the New York Area, a group of African-American oystermen left the restrictive fishing laws of Maryland and settled on the Staten Island, overlooking the Hudson Bay. The settlement came to be known as Sandy Ground and became the oldest continuously-inhabited black community in the country. With the decline in oysters came a decline in the community and the unique history was almost forgotten. In recent decades, however, institutions like the Sandy Ground Historical Society, research and preservation have rediscovered treasures from the past.

What You Will See

The museum uses artifacts, photographs, letters, and tour guides to tell the long and fascinating history of the area, celebrating the unique culture of antebellum freeman and their efforts to establish a livelihood and community amidst the racial restrictions of the time. Beautiful quilts, tools used in the oyster trade, and artifacts from its time as a critical stop on the Underground Railroad are presented with fascinating discussions of their origins. Local volunteer tour guides provide additional background about the area.

Why You Should Go

This is both one of the smallest museums in the city and one of the most inconvenient to public transportation, a combination means you may be the only visitor. But those who make the effort are richly rewarded with an inspiring historical and cultural account. With Weeksville in Brooklyn and the African Burial Ground in Manhattan, the previously untold story of the African-American experience in old New York has never been more accessible.

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