Young Lords in Harlem

Source: Meyer Liebowitz / Getty

New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission recently moved to consider a new group of historic structures and a historic district for 2018. Some of those sites mean a great deal to the history of communities of color.

One of the structures included is the First Spanish United Methodist Church in East Harlem, also known as the People’s Church. The church is known as a launching pad space for the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group from the 1960s and 1970s.

The group first occupied the church in 1969, where they established free breakfast and clothing programs, health services, a daycare center, community dinners, educational workshops, and resources related to Puerto Rican culture and history. They were there for 11 days until 106 Young Lords were arrested for occupying the space. The following year, they occupied Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx for 12 hours, demanding door-to-door preventative health services, maternal and child care, drug addiction care, senior citizen services, a grievance table, and increased minimum wage for hospital workers.

The Commission will also consider the creation of a historic district stretching roughly between West 130th and 132nd streets, between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. The area is notable for the late 19th century architecture and for being a major cultural hub. The area was predominantly white until middle-class Black families moved into Harlem in the 1920s. One row of houses includes a home where the 1963 March on Washington was organized.

“The area is rich with significant African-American cultural history, from the Harlem Renaissance to the Civil Rights movement,” the Landmarks Preservation Commission said in a press release. “[It’s] a remarkable reminder of the substantial role that the African-American community of Harlem played in creating political and social change in New York City and the nation.”

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