City designation saves Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center from uncertain financial future
The Center’s historic Hunterfly Road Houses via Wiki Commons
The Weeksville Heritage Center has been added to a list of 33 Cultural Institutions Groups (CIG), guaranteeing the museum will have its basic operating costs covered, as Curbed first reported. After revealing its precarious financial position earlier this year, Weeksville launched a crowdfunding campaign in May to meet the Center’s short-term operating costs. The effort ended up bringing in over $266,000 from more than 4,100 donors around the world. The coveted CIG designation—the first new addition in more than 20 years and the first black cultural center in Brooklyn to make the list—means that Weeksville will be able to enjoy greater stability as it continues to share its vital mission with visitors and the community.
After New York State abolished slavery in 1827, free black professionals bought land in what is now Crown Heights and founded Weeksville, a self-supporting community of African American Freedman, which grew to become the second-largest free black community in Antebellum America. By 1855, over 520 free African Americans lived in Weeksville, including some of the leading activists in the Abolitionist and Equal Suffrage movements.
Built on the site of Weeksville, the Weeksville Heritage Center has been dedicated to documenting and preserving the history of free African American communities in central Brooklyn and beyond. The center maintains the landmarked Hunterfly Road Houses—the last standing remnants of the community—and organizes a range of exhibitions and community programs.
The Center first applied for CIG designation in 2013 but was denied. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) has yet to determine the amount of funding, but so far the city has contributed $378,675 in programming funds and $78,000 towards the museum’s energy bills for the fiscal year 2019, according to Curbed.
“Weeksville Heritage Center tells the vitally important story of this free black community, a story central to New York City’s history and the history of African Americans living here,” said Ryan Max, a DCA spokesperson. “With permanent, stable funding from the City, Weeksville will be able to keep its doors open and thrive like never before, engaging new audiences and preserving this essential link to our past.”