Behind the gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard lies a network of streets that are a mystery to most New Yorkers. Named for naval heroes, shipyard operations, and even a numbered grid, these streets trace the Yard’s history from the War of 1812 through World War II. While new attention has been given to how and whom we memorialize in our public places and streets, we will unpack the stories of the people behind these street names as we virtually walk through the history of the Yard.
The celebrate Black History Month and the 220th birthday at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we are looking at the obstacles and opportunities that Black people encountered at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the end of the Civil War through the Yard’s closure a century later. The program will examine the long history of African-Americans in the maritime trades, their systematic exclusion from the uniformed ranks of the US Navy in the Jim Crow era, and the new opportunities that emerged during World War II. We will look at profiles of trailblazers, innovators, and activists who worked and served there, and how the Yard became an important to Black economic and cultural life in Brooklyn. This virtual program follows up where we left off with last year’s “An Unfree Fleet,” which looked at the Yard’s connections to the institution of slavery.
Take a virtual ride with us on the Astoria route of the NYC Ferry. We will board at Wall Street, and on this one-hour ride, we will examine the historical buildings along the waterfront of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and learn about things to do at each of the ferry’s stops. We will stop by Wallabout Bay for a visit to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and other landmarks of the industrial waterfront, learn about the history of housing in the Lower East Side, Midtown, and Long Island City, examine the river’s barge traffic, past and present, and discuss the natural and manmade islands that stretch along the river. To accompany this guided tour, check out our free map guide that we created for Open House New York.
This post is part of our eight-part series profiling immigrants to the United States who made significant contributions to the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the eighteenth century to the present day.
John Ericsson (1803–1889)
John Ericsson was perhaps more of an engineer than any man who ever lived. Of his 85 years on this earth, 75 of them were spent as an engineer, and he worked in almost every conceivable field of engineering a person could in the 19th century, spanning the apogee of the Industrial Revolution.